SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed trade that seemed quite robust just last Friday was dying on the vine by Tuesday night, leaving Andrei Kirilenko — who would be in Denver by now had the rumored deal come to fruition — to wonder Wednesday what all the fuss has been about.
Moreover, it allowed him to savor the reality of being the rarity he is — an NBA player headed into his 10th season who has never played for any team besides the one that drafted him.
"I like that," Kirilenko said. "You know, I'm a pretty loyal guy. I like to play on the same team a long time."
And he has.
If Kirilenko still is with the club when its 2010-11 regular season opens Oct. 27 at Denver, he will join John Stockton (19 seasons), Karl Malone (18), Mark Eaton (11), Thurl Bailey (10), Darrell Griffith (10) and Greg Ostertag (10) as the only players to spend 10 or more seasons with the Jazz.
But among that group, only Stockton, Malone, Eaton and Griffith played 10 or more consecutive seasons with the Jazz.
And only two — Stockton and Eaton — played for just one NBA organization.
Kirilenko prides himself on joining the exclusive club, calling himself "kind of a one-team guy."
Even in his native Russia, he played professionally for only two: Spartak St. Petersburg as a youth, then Russian League power CSKA Moscow before coming to the NBA in 2001.
The likelihood of Kirilenko remaining with the Jazz for now increased exponentially early this week, when New Jersey reportedly pulled out of a discussed four-team trade that would have sent Denver star Carmelo Anthony to the Nets, New Jersey star Devin Harris to Charlotte, Boris Diaw of the Bobcats to Utah, and Kirilenko and Nets first-round rookie Derrick Favors along with two future first-round draft picks to the Nuggets.
The Associated Press and Denver Post both called the much-discussed swap "dead" on Tuesday night, though on Wednesday, ESPN.com's Marc Stein deemed it "dormant" while reporting "it's possible that the trade could be revived or that the Nets will construct another multiteam offer for Anthony that the Nuggets find more enticing."
In any event, news of the deal's apparent demise — or at least Kirilenko's participation in it, since luxury-tax implications evidently have dissuaded Denver from taking on his $17.82 million salary — passed with little fanfare in the Russian forward's mind.
That there wasn't much relief on his part is a product only of the reality that he never stressed over it anyway.
And no wonder: Kirilenko is accustomed to such rumors, like ones in past seasons that had him going to New Jersey for Vince Carter, to Phoenix for Shawn Marion and to Houston for Tracy McGrady.
"First of all, there's not much I can do," Kirilenko said Wednesday. "Secondary, I don't really care what the people (are) thinking. My job is to play basketball, and it's as simple as that."
Simplistic, too, is Kirilenko's take on all the talk.
"Until you hear something that says, 'Tomorrow you're going,' " he said, "you can't be real sure."
Until that day, then, all Kirilenko can be certain about is what he knows to be true.
Like the fact he'll play not only small forward early this season but also power forward, the position — because center Mehmet Okur remains sidelined while recovering from surgery to repair an Achilles tendon tear — he was practicing when training camp opened Tuesday.
Like the fact the strained calf muscle that caused him to miss 15 regular-season games late last season and limited him to just two token playoff-game appearances is no longer a concern.
"I didn't feel any problems in the summertime," Kirilenko said of the calf. "It doesn't bother me (now), so I hope it's gonna stay that way." And like the fact Kirilenko will likely soon become the only player besides Stockton and Malone to play 10 straight seasons under head coach Jerry Sloan.
"I don't really care about rumors," said Kirilenko, who on Friday was in Paris when he heard about the one that supposedly had Anthony going to New Jersey and him to Denver.
"I spoke with (Jazz general manager) Kevin (O'Connor) and Jerry (Sloan), and they said, 'Look, we don't have any intentions,' " he added. "So, I'd rather believe them than the rumors."1 comment on this story
There have been, after all, so many over the last decade or so. And yet here is Kirilenko, still in the same place he started.
That, he feels, is worth pondering much more than so-far hollow talk — especially when the seasons come and go with almost more frequency than scuttlebutt that never does materialize.
"I was thinking about it — it's my 10th year," Kirilenko said, "and I'm like, 'Wow, it's been very quick.' "