For all the recent ballyhoo and what-to-do about Andrei Kirilenko's vacation plans a recurring playoff theme, it seems the roaming Russian looked like he only had one thing in mind at the end of Friday night's elimination game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
That seemed to be Game 7 and not the Eiffel Tower, the French Riviera or crusty baguettes.
In the final 43 seconds, Kirilenko drilled two 3-pointers, blocked a Kobe Bryant layup and pulled down a rebound, helping the Utah Jazz rally to nearly force overtime.
But for the Jazz and Kirilenko, who had a whirlwind of a couple of days, the late surge proved to be too little, too late. As far as Kirilenko was concerned, it might have also put to rest the theory that a distracted Kirilenko was ready for his European vacation to begin.
"I don't think about anything else," Kirilenko said after Game 6.
But whether "visagate" was a distraction for him and the Jazz or not, this much is clear now: The NBA playoffs will no longer distract any of them from booking family trips. The Lakers cleared up the rest of their summer.
Au revoir, Utah. Bonjour, France.
Kirilenko offered a solution to prevent any future foreign travel concerns.
"Give me American passport and I will never worry about it," Kirilenko said. After reporters chuckled, Kirilenko said he was serious and that his son, a natural citizen because he was born in the United States, doesn't have to "worry about it."
But leading up to the Western Conference semifinal finale, much was made about Kirilenko's decision to miss practice Thursday so he could resolve travel paperwork issues for his family.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan claimed the situation was his fault. Kirilenko had explained his paperwork plight and Sloan granted him permission to leave after practice. A miscommunication arose, however, because Kirilenko thought practice was going to be at 10 a.m. and made flight plans to the Bay Area accordingly. Because Wednesday's game was late and the Jazz didn't arrive back in Salt Lake City until the middle of the night, Sloan pushed back the time of practice until 11:30 a.m.
Kirilenko returned in time from his team-approved detour to the San Francisco embassy to make Friday's shootaround, and he wasn't sure why everybody was making such a fuss. His agent, Marc Fleisher, said he had to apply for visas last year, too.
Fleisher, by the way, is his NBA agent, not his travel agent.
Kirilenko maintained after Friday's elimination loss that this story was overblown.
"I don't know (why)," he said, "for some reason you're trying to make it a distraction."
Neither did Sloan.
"That was a total misunderstanding on my part with him and there's not any problems with it at all," Sloan said. "I don't think you should be upset with him. You should be upset with me if you have a problem with it."
The confusion and mix-up spread from Sloan not understanding that the visa issues were for his wife and relative and not for Kirilenko personally to the practice time getting changed to teammates wondering where in the world their roaming Russian was.
Some Jazz players were less than thrilled that Kirilenko was missing in action for essentially vacation purposes, especially considering how that topic was a source of frustration after last year's Western Conference Finals loss to San Antonio.
Deron Williams, who was vocal about teammates already being on early vacations during the 2007 playoffs, said he only wanted to "talk about the game" Friday morning.
"I think it is (resolved)," he said softly. "Everything's fine."
Sloan explained to the Jazz where Kirilenko was at Thursday's practice, and Kirilenko addressed them Friday.
"They understand, and it's not a problem at all," he said. "We have a great relationship on the team. Everybody supports each other."
Count Sloan among that support group. He said he learned a lesson years ago when one of his players said he needed to miss a game to go be with a sick friend. Sloan didn't let him leave. It wasn't pretty.
"He should have gone home," Sloan said. "I should have let him go."
In his last game before vacation time, Kirilenko finished with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting. He also had four rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. However, he only played 27:26, which is about five minutes under his playoff average."I'm not responsible for that," he said. "It doesn't matter how much time (I play). I'm only trying to be valuable. ... I want to play."
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