He lashed out Monday at comments made recently by Andrei Kirilenko. He suggested he does not have full confidence in Kirilenko. And he indicated he will not significantly alter things for him.
Yet despite all that, despite saying Kirilenko has struggled on the court for more than three years, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan let it be known he does not think it's time to trade the starting small forward from Russia.
"We're not having a fire sale, with anybody," Sloan said. "I don't even like to use that word but you have to in trying to describe what's going on here a little bit."
Sloan's remarks about not dealing the 2004 NBA All-Star did leave some wiggle room.
Still, the Jazz coach who recently took his club to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1998 made it clear he wants Kirilenko who has four years and about $63 million remaining on a six-year, $86 million contract extension to remain in Utah for the foreseeable future.
"We're gonna keep him, as far as I'm concerned," added Sloan, whose voice is as loud as anyone's when it comes to major Jazz player personnel decisions. "And if something comes up that we think is best for this franchise, that's with any player.
"We're not looking. I don't like to trade people," Sloan added. "But we've got to do what's best for the franchise, always."
Asked if there is any reason to believe the stance on Kirilenko might change when franchise officials soon hold their annual offseason planning meeting, Sloan suggested there is not. "We're going in with the idea of not trading the guy," Sloan said. "He's a talented guy, he's been on the All-Star team.
"He's a little upset, probably, with some of the things I've done. You don't like it, but that's part of the business, I guess, at times. Guys get upset. It's not a perfect world. And I'm a little bit older. I understand that, you know, maybe five or six years ago I'd blow my top a little bit. But I'm not doing that. I don't have any ax to grind at this particular time."
Sloan did, however, address several burrs that evidently have been bugging him.
"Quite frankly, I was disappointed," the coach said when asked about pointed comments made by Kirilenko, who was frustrated throughout the season by his reduced role in the Jazz's offense, to reporters in Russia both during and immediately after Utah's recently concluded playoff run.
Asked what must give for things to work once again between the Jazz and the 1999 first-round draft choice, Sloan speaking with three newspaper reporters following a workout for four NBA Draft prospects suggested the onus is on Kirilenko.
"I don't see us changing everything in the world for Andrei Kirilenko," he said. "I don't see any team in the league doing that.
"He's got to come and play. I mean, when he doesn't come and play hard, he can blame it on whatever he wants but all I can say is what I see on the floor. And that's that there are some times he played great. We loved the way when he plays great. And he can be good all the time if he works at it.
"We just expect him to play hard, try to do what we're trying to do, like we would any player," Sloan added. "And anything other than that, then I failed him."
The Jazz coach seemed skeptical when asked if he's confident Kirilenko is capable of meeting those expectations.
"I don't think anybody would be confident in him," he said, "because he's struggled all year long with it.
"After he made the All-Star team (in 2004)," Sloan added, "he's basically struggled with what we've tried to do with our team and it's the same thing we did when he was in the All-Star Game, when he was an All-Star. He doesn't see it that way."
Sloan clearly was unhappy that in one of the Sport Express Daily reports he was essentially called out by Kirilenko for being one of the chief sources of the 26-year-old Russian's many woes.
But he did offer potential solutions.
"Yeah, he wants to score more. But, No. 1, to be able to score, you've got to work on your shooting," Sloan said. "I mean ... I don't have any problem with him taking shots. I don't have any problem with anybody taking shots. But they have to make them once in a while in order to get confidence.
"He takes a shot that comes out of our offense when he shoots it, I don't have a problem with that. He looks very good and comfortable when he shoots those shots. It's when he comes out and holds, and stands, and doesn't really seem to know where he's going instead of catching and make your decision to shoot, or get into the offense and finish the offense.
"It's fairly simple, from what I've seen," Sloan added after a season in which Kirilenko shot a career-low 21.3 percent from 3-point range. "He needs to work on his shooting, and then his confidence will be there. And (then) when he gets shots, he can take the same shots he took whenever he was on the All-Star team, and they go in. He made 3-point shots that year (hitting 33.8 percent). ... There was no problem. But when you don't make shots, then it becomes my fault."
Sloan's other suggestion is less basketball-specific.
"I think Andrei will be fine. If he likes to win," he said. "The bottom line is how much do you like to win? That's all I have to be concerned about. I don't care who scores."
Nor does Sloan care, or need, to hear from Kirilenko that he indeed wants to stay in Utah.
"My job is to coach whoever is here," he said. "And that's the way we'll do it. That hasn't changed.
"You just have to play somebody else if he's not happy, or if something doesn't work out. That's the only thing I can do," Sloan added. "I have (backup small forward) Matt Harpring, so I played Matt some. I can't wait on him (Kirilenko) to say, 'OK, I've got another day to work on my shooting to get better.' You take away his layups and stuff, and what does he shoot from the field? I don't mean that in a negative way. He's just got to work a little harder on his shooting. That's what I told him when we left."
Sloan said Kirilenko responded well to that challenge during his annual end-of-the-season exit interview: "He seemed to be fine."
That apparently was enough for Sloan, a proponent of roster continuity, to decide Kirilenko should return next season.
"You know, we put a group of guys together, and sometimes it don't work the first time. But you get rid of them, you get something worse. You get something where nothing works," the Jazz coach said. "I don't like the idea of trading guys. I like to hopefully work with the guys a little bit, and we go through some battles, and pretty soon they understand, 'We're not against you.'"You've got to keep guys and let them have a chance to play," Sloan added. "That's always been my feeling unless there's a definite conflict. And who knows? Maybe there are some here. Time only will tell."
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