Andrei Kirilenko return to Salt Lake City yesterday for the first time since his 10-year Jazz tenure ended in 2011. Played a great game too, with 12 points (on 4-7 shooting and 4-4 free throws), 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in a losing effort. He said that he was looking forward to returning to Utah and commented on how it was both a familiar (“I probably know, like, first 20 rows throughout the building. I know all the fans”) and strange (“I didn’t even know the guest locker room was here. I kind of like, ‘Where the guest locker room…’”) experience.
AK also talked about his return to the NBA after a season in Russia, and whether he was close to re-signing with Utah:
…after a year, I think my position of small forward got filled in. You know, Gordon Hayward play very good basketball right now. He’s young [and] promising, and they got Marvin Williams…
(Thanks to Moni from Living and Dying by the Jazz for transcribing AK’s comments and interviews)
Grammatical nitpicking aside, it sometimes makes me wonder why the Jazz didn’t go for Kirilenko instead of Marvin Williams. I know the Harris-for-Marvin trade was well before AK started looking at potential suitors, but I figured that the Jazz front office (as well as that of every other team) would’ve expected him to return, now that the lockout is a full season behind them. He knows the team as well as anyone on it right now, and has proven to be a solid player capable of doing a bit of everything. In fact, Rick Adelman has been consistently heaping praise on him for being the ultimate professional and do-it-all glue guy. My bet is that he would’ve been a better fit for this team. He’ll be a veteran presence, yes, but unlike the Derek Fishers and Juwan Howards of the league, he can actually still be a top contributor for a good team.
Best of luck to Andrei Kirilenko in Minnesota, and glad to see him getting the love there that he deserves and that’s been lacking in his later years in Utah.