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Kirilenko wants to play ball in Russia

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2007 12:31 a.m. MDT

Another day and another report has come out in a Russian news source telling of Andrei Kirilenko's discontent in Utah.

And this time, Kirilenko, the national hero for leading his country to the recent European championship, indicates that he wants to stay in Russia rather than play for the Jazz.

"I want to do what I enjoy doing, and I think the emotions that I experienced with the national side are worth going back to Russia and playing there for Russian supporters," Kirilenko told the Sports Express newspaper in Russia, which has both English and Russian editions, in a story published Thursday.

The complete article can be found at english.sport-express.ru/news/13_1223.

Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor has reiterated several times in the past few days that they expect Kirilenko to be at training camp, which begins Oct. 1 with media day in Salt Lake City before practices start on Oct. 2 in Boise.

Kirilenko, the Jazz's highest-paid player, is still under contract with Utah and couldn't join and start playing for a Russian professional team without some sort of arrangement with the Jazz as per FIBA rules. Kirilenko is scheduled to make $13.71 million for the 2007-08 season in Utah with his contract running through the 2010-11 season. In all, Kirilenko, a "max-money" NBA player, is scheduled to make about $63 million during the remainder of his Jazz contract.

Kirilenko has talked and written about his enjoyment playing with the Russian national team this summer. He averaged 18 points and 8.6 rebounds during the European championships, winning the tournament's MVP honor as a result. By comparison, he scored just 8.3 points with 4.7 rebounds per game during the last Jazz season.

But Kirilenko insists that his desire to leave the Jazz is not due to his success with the Russian team.

"I spoke to Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor ahead of European Championships kick-off so Russia's victory has not influenced my decision in any way," said Kirilenko to Sport Express.

"The previous season let me understand that I can't progress in Utah," Kirilenko said. "Jerry Sloan is a super-coach who has taken the team to playoffs a number of times, but we are split over basketball issues."

Should Kirilenko not return to the Jazz, he would be the second starter from last season's Northwest Division title and Western Conference finals team to leave despite being under contract.

Guard Derek Fisher was released from his deal by the Jazz so that he could live in a larger city where his baby daughter's rare form of cancer could be better treated. Fisher ended up re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team he played on and won NBA championships with during a previous stint.


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com

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