Over the past month Andrei Kirilenko has been weighing his options about returning to the NBA or finishing the season out playing in Russia.
Apparently home is where the heart is.
The free-agent forward and Russian superstar finally made his decision today by announcing he will remain with CSKA Moscow through the rest of the season.
“During this month I considered different options, weighting out all pros and cons, and I came to the conclusion that I should finish this season with CSKA,” said Kirilenko, the former Utah Jazz All-Star, via a CSKA press release.
“We developed great team chemistry, the real team in the first part of the season. It would be incorrect to stop halfway. It would be unfair toward my teammates and, more importantly, toward fans. I know how many people count on me. To play for CSKA is a great pleasure and fun, and I will do my best to win all the tournaments we are participating in. I am thankful to club’s management for patience in my difficult situation. Thank you very much to all the fans for their support! Come to our games to cheer for CSKA!”
Kirilenko had been in heavy discussions with the New Jersey Nets about signing a three-year contract, but apparently those talks fell through. The Sacramento Kings were reportedly also courting Kirilenko, who has been going through non-contact practices with CSKA (where he signed a three-year contract during the NBA lockout) since breaking his nose and injuring his shoulder in mid-November against Krasnye Krylia. He returned to action weeks later to many peoples surprise after undergoing a nose job and playing with a protective plastic mask. Playing against Khimki in PBL play, Kirilenko went 0-3 in about 7 minutes of action in a 75-65 CSKA loss on December 10. He hasn’t played since.
Kirilenko will join CSKA for full play on January, 3 and be available when they face Minsk 2006 in VTB action on the 4th
With the Nets, Kirilenko would have been re-united with both former Jazz teammate Deron Williams, and also billionaire team owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who previously owned CSKA. Prokhorov and Kirilenko have remained in touch throughout the process, with the Nets owner asking Kirilenko not to rush into a final decision until the team could make him a final offer, according to one person familiar with their relationship.
“I think that Andrei’s long-awaited decision is the best New Year gift for all CSKA and Russian fans they could imagine. It’s great that we will meet the New Year with such good news,” said CSKA team president Andrei Vatutin.
“AK-47 did not just proved that he is the important chain of our team, tremendously valuable, dedicated player. He showed that he is a true patriot, a man who does not look for quick benefits, who tries to please basketball fans all over the country, to raise our favorite sport popularity. I am glad to know that the decision was taken by Andrey in best of interests of CSKA team, it is very important for all of us. Our club was always following “All for one and one for all” principle. I know that Kirilenko had a number of options to leave, and every option had its own value – in means of finances, life conditions, possibilities to win in the NBA. Therefore Andrey’s decision is even more valuable for us. Also I would like to thank Norilsky Nickel management again for their support of the idea to bring Kirilenko to CSKA. I would like also to wish all of us, all our fans good health and best of luck in the Year 2012.
In five Euroleague games, Kirilenko us averaging 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 steals, 3.2 blocked shots in 30.4 minutes per game. His other numbers: 4.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.0 blocked shots in 14.0 minutes in three Beko PBL games and in four VTB League games, he’s averaging 10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.8 blocked shotes in 22.5 minutes.
Kirilenko was also won Euroleague MVP honors for the month of October. CSKA is also poised for another Euroleague title thanks to Kirilenko and remain undefeated at 10-0.
Flashforward two months and the free agent can strike his name from the list of NBA players on the open market.
Kirilenko is in Russia to stay.