LONDON — Although Andrei Kirilenko is hoping for a Russian revolution in the wake of Mikhail Prokhorov's recent purchase of the New Jersey Nets, it's LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal that are on his mind ahead of the start of the NBA season.
Kirilenko, who plays for the Utah Jazz and will be headed to Europe for a pair of preseason games, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday that O'Neal's move to join James with the Cleveland Cavaliers is going to cause havoc around the league.
"That's the poison union," Kirilenko said. "I mean poison in a good way. They're going to poison the rest of us."
The Jazz will play the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 6 in London, and then face Real Madrid in the Spanish capital two days later.
Utah will play at Cleveland on Nov. 14 in the team's 10th game of the regular season, and Kirilenko is predicting O'Neal will fit right in with LeBron and Co.
"He's definitely going to be a huge motivation, not only for LeBron but for the team," the 28-year-old Kirilenko said. "I just don't know how they're going to find time for Zydrunas (Ilgauskas)."
The 34-year-old Ilgauskas has been with Cleveland for his entire 11-year NBA career, but with Shaq playing in the center, the big Lithuanian will likely be on the bench.
"But that's not my problem, that's coach (Mike) Brown's problem," Kirilenko said.
Kirilenko, who has spent eight years with the Jazz since leaving the Russian league, is also expecting Prokhorov's involvement in the NBA to lead to more Russians coming over.
His first pick is center Timofey Mozgov, who averaged 11 points per game for Russia at this month's European Championship.5 comments on this story
"He's the most improved player," Kirilenko said. "He's a big guy. He has a chance to make the NBA."
But before this season starts, Kirilenko and teammates have to make the long haul to Europe to help the NBA continue its presence on the continent for the fourth straight year — although this time the tour has been reduced to only two games and only two teams.
None of that has dampened the excitement for Kirilenko, who is looking forward to the trip as much for soccer-related reasons as basketball.
"I've been a fan of Chelsea a long time," Kirilenko said of the London club, which he will see play Liverpool on Saturday in a major Premier League match. "I want to go badly."