Andrei Kirilenko Q&A: Disoriented ex-Jazzman happy to revisit 'special' place
Jody Genessy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The familiar Russian accent, the big smile, the friendly greeting, the amicable personality, the broken-but-understandable English and the No. 47 jersey were all back in EnergySolutions Arena today.
Shortly after his new team concluded its morning prep work for tonight's game against the Utah Jazz, Andrei Kirilenko spent about 7-8 minutes visiting with 20 media members outside of a place he'd never been before making this trip to Salt Lake City with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"Very unusual," Kirilenko said when asked what it was like to be in Utah as a visitor after playing in EnergySolutions Arena for 10 years as a Jazzman. "I didn't even know where the guest locker room was. Right now, I know it.
"I haven't been in there yet," Kirilenko said about the visiting locker room. "I'm afraid to go in."
As expected, Kirilenko was charming, gracious and appreciative — even a bit funny — while speaking about the Jazz and his return to the place he's long considered his second home. Speaking of which, yes, AK-47 still owns his Salt Lake City abode.
"Yeah, I still have a house here. Yesterday I've been there. It looks a little bit lonely," Kirilenko said, grinning. "But ... it's life. We'll always try and do the best thing for your family and for yourself."
Here's the rest of the Q&A session with Kirilenko, whose T-Wolves (14-13) are in town to take on the Jazz (15-17) for the first time this season:
What do you think the reception will be for you tonight?
I had a great 10 years here. I feel like I know every fan for the first 10 rows. It's going to be fun. It's going to be very strange, strange feeling, but I guess that's the basketball life.
What was your favorite part about Utah?
Everything. I grew up here as a player, as an NBA player. I come into the league 19, 20 years old, become an All-Star (in 2004) and get in the majority of my career here. There is tons of great moments here. There is no one moment. It's a part of my life in here.
How would you like to be remembered here? Your Utah Jazz legacy?
I've always been a fan of being remembered as a good person rather than just a good player. I think if the people remember you as a good personality, I think it goes a long way rather than just being a good player but being a jackass or whatever.
What was it like walking on to the court in here for the first time this morning?
I was thinking that, 'How many games did I play here? About 500, 400 games. That's a lot. Every game is special. It really feels special when you're playing for 10 years with the same team. It's a great feeling.
Not many players are left from when you played here. Are you looking forward to seeing anybody in particular?
You know, Paul (Millsap), Al (Jefferson), Gordon (Hayward), those guys. Earl Watson. There's tons of guys who I played with and they're still here. But you know how I feel special is when I step into the EnergySolution and I see all the staff who works here during those 10 years I've been here. And I know them by name. Every one of them. It's so, so interesting. They're happy to see me. I've been very happy to see them. That's special.
Are you hoping Jerry Sloan will be here tonight so you can visit with him?
He's coming? Karl, John, Jerry, if they can all be here it'd be great.
Did you have dinner with former teammates or friends?
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