Andrei Kirilenko has not changed his stance about returning to the NBA every since he stood on the floor at the 2011 European Championship as part of the all-tournament team last September and contemplated offers in Russia from both CSKA Moscow and Spartak St. Petersburg.
Back then Kirilenko carefully weighed his overseas options in light of a lingering work stoppage in the NBA as the two teams lobbied to sign the all- star small forward. The NBA and his free-agent status would play a part in his future, but what that looked like exactly was a mystery.
Since signing with CSKA Moscow and deciding not to return to the league upon the NBA and Players Union reaching an agreement in late November, the game plan remains the same for Kirilenko: an NBA future to consider in one hand, the comfort of staying to play basketball at home in the other.
Yet instead of fielding offers from a number of teams around the league, one team in particular is holding currently Kirilenko’s attention.
On Thursday, Crossover Chronicles featured an exclusive report detailing how Kirilenko has a verbal agreement in place with the Brooklyn Nets for a 3-year deal if he does indeed choose to make the jump back to the league after a season-long absence with Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four front-runner, CSKA Moscow.
The offer is rooted in Kirilenko’s long and storied history with Nets Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, which traces back even before Prokhorov owned a share in CSKA and financially supported the team which Kirilenko first joined in 1998 before arriving in the NBA with the Utah Jazz.
As the report explained, three sources both close to Kirilenko and CSKA and privy to conversations surrounding Kirilenko’s verbal agreement with the Nets all reiterated that such talks are coming from within Moscow.
“Those who doubt Kirilenko and the Nets aren’t ready to move forward with a deal are only getting one side of the story,” said one person familiar with the agreement.
“(Billy) King may be the one answering questions to the press in Brooklyn, but in Russia the one-on-one conversations carry a lot more weight.”
Obviously the Nets as an organization at this point can’t show their whole hand until after July 12’s free agency period begins, so the refutes and baseless knocks against the initial report are understandable as the Nets deny that an agreement of any stature is untrue.
Yet that won’t keep King from likely rubbing elbows and bending Kirilenko’s ear about his free-agent hopes when the Nets general manager makes his trek to Istanbul, Turkey for the Euroleague Final Four which tips off next Friday between CSKA and Panathanaikos in the semi-finals.
As reported by the New York Post, King’s visit includes meeting with small forward Bojan Bogdanovic, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2011, who plays for Fenerbache in the Turkish league and will be in action against Besiktas in the quarter-finals of the Turkish Basketball League playoffs on Sunday.
However, the trip will also provide King an opportunity to watch Kirilenko in person.
Back in December when AK was reportedly nearing a deal with the Nets, he said choosing a team won’t necessarily be about how big the offer is and the Nets have openly monitored Kirilenko’s progress this season with CSKA.
The decision won’t be easy for Kirilenko to make.
It never has been during the “play in Russia or the NBA” dilemma he’s juggled with since last summer and although CSKA’s play at the Final Four will be very telling, it is becoming more likely that Kirilenko won’t make a final commitment until after the 2012 London Olympics where Russia will compete for a gold medal.
He remains committed to CSKA and has enjoyed his season in Russia immensely.
For Kirilenko, right now the focus is on preparing for Panathanaikos and the semi-finals a week away in Istanbul, Turkey. He’ll be fresh off putting up 9 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks as CSKA beat Unics Kazan 74-62 in the VTB United League championship game on Thursday night at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania.
And right now for Billy King and the Nets, the focus is on making the verbal agreement with Kirilenko concrete this offseason.