MINNEAPOLIS (MCT) — New Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko is back in the NBA after a season away and apparently feeling like he is back home, even though he spent his first decade in the league in Utah, not Minnesota.
"I really feel like I belong here," he said.
Kirilenko once felt like that with the Jazz, after he parlayed an All-Star Game appearance at age 23 into an $86 million contract that was supposed to make him the franchise's new face after John Stockton and Karl Malone retired.
But that was before Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams blossomed in the team's offense, before Kirilenko played out the final years of that six-year deal with a whopping salary but a diminished role.
Now, after a season playing back home in Russia, he says he knows just where he fits at age 31 on a team that's all Kevin Love's.
He is the savvy veteran signed to a two-year, $20 million contract who gives the Wolves, even at age 31, perhaps their most versatile defender and has played the game all his life just the way Rick Adelman has lived to coach it, with motion and selflessness.
Kirilenko always admired Adelman's Sacramento teams from a decade ago.
"It feels right," Kirilenko said. "I'm not having any problems getting along with the guys, everybody is being so helpful. Kevin's doing a great job as the face of this team, being friendly but at the same time showing good example for everybody. It's the right place for me."