Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko is returning home to Russia, and if the NBA lockout drags on he may stay there.
Kirilenko has signed a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow, reports FIBA.com. Kirilenko is an NBA free agent but his Russian deal still has an NBA opt out allowing him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends (he has a one month window to decide, and can do that each of the first couple years of his contract).
Basically, Kirilenko will be a free agent leverage – give me an offer I like or I return to Moscow.
Kirilenko played traditional power CSKA (the team formerly owned by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov) before coming to the NBA. The team’s coach Jonas Kazlauskas approved AK-47 coming back to Russia and said he was a national star that needed to come home.
“My opinion,” Kazlauskas said in a club announcement, “you should not take the NBA player during the lockout. If they can leave you, you don’t know what to expect. And only the weak teams can take this kind of step. At the same time, every rule has its exception, and Kirilenko is the exception.
“Andrei is the star of Russian and world basketball, he means for his country as much as Sabonis for Lithuania, Pau Gasol for Spain, Nowitzki for Germany.”
Well played, Kazlauskas. Tell all the other teams they are weak for taking an NBA player and trying to match you, while you take the cream of the crop.
Kirilenko played brilliantly for Russia during EuroBasket, where he was named to the all-tournament team. Russia finished third and will take part in next summer’s pre-Olympics, last chance qualifying tournament.