Former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko drives to the basket during Russia?s bronze medal game against Macedonia in the 2011 European Championship on Sunday.
Andrei Kirilenko and I met while we were in Italy training for the Russian National Team four years ago. Since then we have kept in touch and it has been fun to follow his success as he plays for one of the best teams in Europe, CSKA. We talked Wednesday morning, while my former Russian teammate Vitaly Fridzon was at Kirilenko's house in Moscow. He talked about his recent broken nose, Jimmer, NBA, Mormons and adoption, among other things. Here is part of our conversation:
Hansen: How is Russia?
Kirilenko: Good, except I hate the bad snow. I like good snow but we are having bad black snow right now. It is the bad, wet snow. The traffic is horrible, too, and sometimes the people are hard to get used to again. It is the culture here in Russia, that's why people are tough. Everyone in Utah is happy, even though sometimes it is not how they feel inside, they always try to smile and act happy.
Hansen: I have followed you and you are playing amazing in the Euroleague. Your team is 5-0 and you are averaging 13.8 ppg, nine rebounds and 29.4 ranking. How do you like playing for CSKA?
Kirilenko: I feel good. Last game, you know I only took two shots the whole game. But I did get the foul line like 14 times. I am getting smarter, getting to the foul line and making my foul shots. European basketball is so much more tactical then in the NBA. Sometimes many NBA players cannot adjust over here and play this type of basketball.
Hansen: You broke your nose recently in a Russian League game, how is it healing?
Kirilenko: I am doing great. I caught an elbow going for a rebound and had to go to the hospital right away. It happens in basketball. It is important that there was no major damage. I feel like next week I will play again but I will have to play with a mask.
Hansen: Are you excited for the NBA season to finally start?
Kirilenko: I thought the lockout was going to last all year. The timing from complete lockout to all of the sudden the season starts in a few weeks has been crazy. But it is good for everyone that the lockout is over.
Hansen: How many children do you have?
Kirilenko: We have three children. Our youngest little girl we adopted from here in Russia.
Hansen: We adopted a little girl last year also. It has been a remarkable experience. What made you want to adopt?
Kirilenko: We adopted three years ago a little girl named Alexandra. She is a little cutie. We wanted to adopt because we always wanted a big family and wanted more kids. It took us nine months to adopt so basically it was like giving birth. (laughs). We would love to have three more children for a total of six!
Hansen: That would be great but I have never heard of a Russian with six kids.
Kirilenko: I am Mormon. (laughs) I was born in Russia and raised by Mormons. (laughs)
Hansen: What do you know about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Kirilenko: I like it. It is a strong religion for your family. Everyone has a lot of kids, the church is based around families and kids. It is very focused on families. I mean I am not going to church or anything. But I believe it is important to relate to each other and to strengthen your family, whether it is through church or whatever.
Hansen: Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?
Kirilenko: Yeah, I have read it. I mean they are in every hotel room in the states (laughs). I am not super religious. I understand it is a good thing but it's a no-win situation for me with religion, whether it is Catholic or Orthodox or Mormon. It is just important to have God in your heart.
Hansen: You are a free agent now. Do you stay in Russia or come back to the NBA?
Kirilenko: Before Dec. 9th I will listen to offers from the NBA. I am happy in CSKA and it will be a tough decision. Utah Jazz is in my heart and is on the priority list. I will look at everything on the table. You know here in Russia my kids are in school, the team is great and I have been playing really well. It will be a difficult decision.
Hansen: Did you follow Jimmer?
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Kirilenko: Yes, I followed a little and I think he can play. You know there was all that Jimmermania going on in Utah and we all wanted him to come play for the Jazz but unfortunately he got drafted and signed for the Sacramento Kings. I wish him good luck.
Hansen: How many more years do you want to play?
Kirilenko: I would like to play three or four more years. I feel have enough juice left for that many more years at a high level. After three to four years I don't know if I will be able to play at my highest level.