SACRAMENTO Basketball's international governing body on Friday named Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who led his native Russia to a surprise gold medal at EuroBasket 2007, its '07 Europe Men's Player of the Year.
"It is a big honor," said Kirilenko, who won a vote of both fans and a panel of basketball experts, media and coaches from 25 different countries. "But I think it's an honor for our team in EuroBasket 2007.
"Nobody even (counted on) us and (they) deemed us underdogs," added Kirilenko, who averaged 18 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals and nearly two blocks per game in the tournament. "But we won the whole thing."
After the victory in Spain basketball's popularity in Russia soared, Kirilenko said.
"Andrei is one of the best players in the world and he proved that this summer in Spain," FIBA Europe secretary general Nar Zanolin said in a statement from the governing body. "Russia has always been a force in European basketball, but in a competition like EuroBasket you need more than just talent and he proved his abilities extend beyond his impressive statistics."
Last year's winner, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki of Germany, finished second, followed by Toronto's Jose Calderon of EuroBasket silver-medalist Spain, San Antonio's Tony Parker of France, and Lithuanian Ramunas Siskauskas of CSKA Moscow.
The rest of the top-10: Greece's Dimitris Diamantidis, Spain's Paul Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, Latvia's Andris Biedrins of Golden State, Slovenia's Matjaz Smodis and Great Britain's Luol Deng of Chicago.
"Those guys are really deserved as well," Kirilenko said. "Because Dirk (became) an MVP in NBA, Tony won the (NBA) championship and (became) MVP of the (NBA) Finals, Pau played a great hero."
BREWER OUT; MILES IN: Starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer didn't play in the Jazz's game Friday against Sacramento due to the severely bruised tailbone he sustained in Wednesday's win at Denver.
Reserve swingman C.J. Miles started instead a decision that allowed Jazz coach Jerry Sloan to keep his usual bench rotation, including backup shooting guard Kyle Korver and backup small forward Matt Harpring, intact.
"The people off the bench, they're really critical for you and these guys play well off the bench and that's helped us," Sloan said. "I like to keep them in their rhythm, because they play a lot of minutes anyway."
Going with the 21-year-old Miles, Sloan added, "gives him an opportunity to get some valuable experience rather than garbage minutes."
It was the first game missed this season by Brewer, who was hurt when he got yanked to the floor on a layup attempt by Denver's Kenyon Martin.
"My lateral quickness (isn't) where it should be, especially how I have to defend for this team," said Brewer, who will try to play tonight vs. Chicago. "I'm gonna try to rest it, and hopefully be back by the next game."
With Brewer out, starting point guard Deron Williams and backup power forward Paul Millsap are the only Jazz players to appear in all 51 games this season.
TOUGH GRIND: Sloan was asked Friday if, at age 65, the NBA grind ever gets to him.
"Yeah, it gets to me," he said.
"When we played so many road games (in December)," he added, "that, I think, was tough on anybody."
It's even tougher, Sloan suggested, when the Jazz are losing.
"That's the hardest thing in coaching," he said. "The longer you stay in it the losses get tougher to deal with. I think I understand losing, if there's such a thing. But the older I get the harder it is."
HE SAID IT: Denver center Marcus Camby, to the Rocky Mountain News: "Every time we play Utah, it always seems to be physical. Matt Harpring's in there throwing his body around, throwing his weight around. He's hacking, he's pushing, doing all the dirty stuff out there that doesn't get called."
STILL HOPE: Citing a dislocated pinkie finger sustained earlier this week, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant suggested to the Los Angeles Times that there's a chance the injury will keep him from playing in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game.If it does, Williams is a replacement candidate.
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