Utah Jazz: Kirilenko will not play for Russia this summer

Published: Friday, July 10 2009 12:34 a.m. MDT

Contrary to a report from Europe suggesting he would, Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko will not play for his native Russia in the upcoming Eurobasket 2009 tournament.

A French Press Agency dispatch this week said Kirilenko would "spearhead" defending champion Russia in FIBA's European championship tournament, which will be held Sept. 7-20 in Poland.

Not so, agent Marc Fleisher said Thursday night.

"He's definitely not playing," Fleisher said by telephone from Boston. "I just talked to him, and he said, 'I'm not playing.' "

Kirilenko was noncommittal about the issue on the Jazz's locker-cleanout in late April.

In a subsequent May report on Eurobasket.com, the one-time NBA All-Star said that — despite encouragement from Russian basketball federation officials to play, including a recruiting trip to the United States from its president — he suggested he'd probably not be playing because of an undisclosed family-related matter.

Fleisher would not confirm that's the reason, but did say Kirilenko is "working hard on improving his body this offseason."

The Jazz requested just that during their offseason meeting with him, and the lanky Kirilenko — the subject of recent trade talk between Houston and Utah — has complied via an effort that's included a week-long stay at a high-performance training center in California.

Kirilenko played for Russia at last year's Summer Olympics in China, and he led his national team to a surprise Eurobasket title in 2007.

Mehmet Okur, another of Fleisher's clients, also is a no-go for this year's European championships.

Okur, who agreed this week to a two-year contract extension with the Jazz, continues to rehab from a hamstring injury sustained late this past season.

He has suggested via his personal Web site that he hopes to play for Turkey next summer, when that country hosts FIBA's World Championships.

Players with Jazz ties who are listed on preliminary national-team rosters for this year's Eurobasket tourney are big man Kosta Koufos (Greece), 2008 second-round draft choice Ante Tomic (Croatia) and 2009 second-rounder Goran Suton (Croatia).

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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