Quantcast

Andrei Kirilenko not joining Russian team in Turkey

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 6:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — They're not allowed — due to an agreement between FIBA, basketball's international governing body, and the NBA — to tell him what to do.

But suffice it to say the Jazz are happy starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko said nyet to playing for his native Russia at next month's FIBA World Championships in Turkey.

The Jazz were concerned about Kirilenko's conditioning, especially because — despite a preseason conditioning program that put some bulk on his usually lankly frame — he missed 20-plus games last regular season and with a calf muscle strained in three different spots.

"I was thrilled with the way he came back (last fall), and he didn't play (internationally) last year," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said Thursday. "So, we hope that he keeps the weight on and we hope that he keeps working out."

New Jazz big man Al Jefferson, meanwhile, said Thursday that he's declined an opportunity to go to USA Basketball's training camp next week in Las Vegas.

There, Team USA will pick players for the upcoming tourney in Turkey.

"The reason why I decided not to go — me and my (personal) team decided that I just felt real comfortable with what I was doing now as far as working out, rehabbing on my knee," said Jefferson, whose 2008-09 season was cut short by an ACL tear that prompted reconstructive surgery.

"I just felt like I need to continue to do that. I feel I'm young enough (25) to have a chance to go (the 2014 World Championships) four years from now."

The decision could cost him a shot at the U.S.'s 2012 London Olympics team, but Jefferson wasn't sure about that.

With Kirilenko and Jefferson out, the Jazz won't be represented at the world tourney.

Point Deron Williams, a 2010 gold medal-winning Olympian, declined his Team USA invite last Saturday. And center Mehmet Okur, from Turkey, remains sidelined by recent Achilles tendon surgery.

The decision by Kirilenko, who carried Russia's flag at 2010 Beijing Olympics, apparently is quite controversial in his homeland.

Russia used the expectation of his presence to land a wildcard invite to the tourney, and — because he evidently changed his mind after initially vowing to play — his actions are being painted there as a broken promise.

"Jazz had recommended me to skip the Worlds, but it was my decision in the end," the 2004 NBA All-Star was quoted as saying in Russian newspaper Sport-Express.

"If I were in (the Russian basketball federation's) place, I would be indignant," he added. "I really didn't like the situation I was in, but I do have obligations."

O'Connor hastened to suggest that the Jazz didn't dictate what the call should be by Kirilenko, who at $17.8 million will be their highest-paid player next season.

He also revealed high expectations for Kirilenko in the coming season.

Even with Jefferson filling the void created when starting power forward Carlos Boozer left for Chicago via free agency, Okur's uncertain status for the start of next season has the Jazz likely needing help inside.

The Jazz expect Kirilenko to play much more power forward next season — he played it when leading Russia to an improbable 2007 EuroBasket title, and during most in his lone NBA All-Star season — and O'Connor has set the bar high.

"Most guys that go into the last year of their contract have a pretty good year. We expect him to have a really big-time year this year," O'Connor said of Kirilenko, whose current deal expires after the coming season. "This is a good feeling I've got, just like I felt Carlos (Boozer) would have a good year (in the last season of his contract) this past year."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company