WASHINGTON -- The Nets made gigantic splashes in the offseason.
But one addition that might've gone overlooked but could have a big impact was the signing of Andrei Kirilenko.
The do-it-all forward could be a major piece for Jason Kidd this season. The 6-9 small forward makes his Nets debut tonight in the preseason opener against Washington and he's as versatile as any player on the roster.
Kirilenko's defensive ability and length could even be an option for Kidd in late stages of games.
"AK is big," Kidd said of the Nets signing Kirilenko. "Because he knows how to play the game defensively, off the ball and help defenders, his IQ of understanding where to be at the right time. We all know he can block shots and being that three and four, his IQ and understanding what it takes to win is big for us off the bench."
If Kirilenko can stay healthy, the Nets may have found themselves a bench gem at a bargain price. The veteran forward made nearly $10 million in Minnesota last season but opted out of the last year of his contract and signed with the Nets for their $3.1 mini mid-level exception.
After the first practice, Kirilenko sounded excited about what the Nets can do after seeing how Kevin Garnett set the tone of the practice with his vocal leadership.
"He is very loud," Kirilenko said. "It is very important when you have those kinds of leaders on the floor. I've seen in my career two type of leaders, silent and showing by example and vocal like KG. He reminds me of Karl Malone a little bit because he was loud and bringing everybody together."
"We are learning together," he added. "Even though we are veterans, we need to find that glue to kind of get us around on offense and defense."
Kirilenko could be one of Kidd's glue players to make it all work. With Jason Terry, Kirilenko provides a valuable vet to bring off the bench.
For his career, Kirilenko averages 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 steals. He can play multiple positions and start in case of injury or if Kidd needs to rest a veteran like Garnett.
Paul Pierce is thrilled to be playing alongside Kirilenko.
"He is a guy that can take so much pressure off me, Joe [Johnson], Kevin, Brook [Lopez]," Pierce said. "He is that player. He is a special player, he can play four positions on the court, he can defend four positions on the court, he can pass.
"He is a great luxury to have on your bench," Pierce continued. "You already look at the guys we have on our bench who could be starters in this league and he is one of them."