It will take Andrei Kirilenko quite a while to stand in front of the class next fall and talk about what he did during his summer vacation.

Between trips to France (no worries, the visa paperwork went through for his family trip), Russia and China, this will be a jam-packed offseason for the forward.

Whether or not Kirilenko will return to the Beehive State and tell his traveling tales as a member of the Utah Jazz in a few months is a question rattling through inquiring minds now that the team's season is over.

As far as Kirilenko is concerned, that question needn't be asked.

"Well, I have (a) contract," he said Saturday, "so I'll definitely be here."

Of course, Kirilenko also had a contract — three years and oodles of cash remain on it now — when he made headlines last summer about his displeasure with his role on the Jazz. A trade even seemed likely before the 2007-08 season.

Fast forward a year — but not quite as far as the France trip — and Kirilenko is giving no indication that he is unhappy with anything other than being eliminated by the Lakers.

"This was very good season for us," Kirilenko said at the Jazz's locker cleanup session. "But we haven't done the main goal yet. We need to win the finals."

With the help of Jeff Hornacek — who tutored him on how, when and where to shoot — this AK-47 ended up having the most accurate shooting season in his six-year NBA career.

And, yes, that came as a surprise to him — and others — after his 2007 summer vents to Russian media were followed by vents made about him by Deron Williams to Utah media.

Even if the miscommunication that led to his excused-but-distracting absence from Thursday's practice made some wonder if he was more interested in vacation plans than preparing for Game 6, it appears the international crisis has been resolved.

He even called this "the best year of my career."

"It was definitely better than expected," Kirilenko admitted. "I was kind of worried about this year."

So, obviously, were the Jazz. But management and Kirilenko smoothed things out prior to training camp, something that helped the 27-year-old tweak his attitude for the better.

"We had a really good conversation with coach before the year. We tried to be very polite. The year was great. Mental part of it was great," he said. "The game — nothing really changed much, but I kind of changed my priorities. I was trying to concentrate on helping my teammates more."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan knew Kirilenko was dissatisfied with his role, so he said the Jazz tried "to accommodate him" more and communication improved (usually). With Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur, the Jazz couldn't hand the offense over to Kirilenko, but they tried to involve him more.

"He accepted what we were trying to do," Sloan said. "I thought he had a much better year than what he had a year ago."

Sloan hopes Kirilenko, among others, continues to work on his shooting. Kirilenko also plans on trying to improve his movement and his strength so he can finish drives to the hoop with more power.

Kirilenko, who will represent Russia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August, claimed he looks forward to continuing to play with the solid nucleus the Jazz have put together. He doesn't think the franchise needs to make any major moves but that the current players simply need to improve on consistently playing their game, himself included.

His max contract makes him a tough trade anyway — not that he's eyeing greener pastures.

"I have three more years of contract here, so I will try to do as best as possible," he said. "I think this team is good enough to win it."

"This is the only team I know in the NBA. I know everybody. I love everybody here in the organization," he said. "It's the best place."


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