1,578,590,950 Rubles Say He's Staying
Today Andrei took things to another level. By now you've probably read the report that Kirilenko is "ready" to leave the NBA. It seems that he's willing to walk away from his contract and go back home to play for Russia or another European team.
Could it happen? Should we be expecting a news conference any minute now? Is AK-47 really willing to walk away from $63M (or roughly 1,578,590,950 Rubles)?
Don't bet on it.
This is the problem with guaranteed contracts in the NBA. The players love the financial security but hate the indentured servant feel of being locked into an uncomfortable situation. There is an increasing amount of signer-remorse these days.
Kobe Bryant felt like management deceived him and publicly flip flopped on a trade demand. A disgruntled Allen Iverson was traded last year. According to several reports, Paul Pierce was just about ready to quietly ask out of Boston before Ainge pulled the trigger and landed Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (a player many believe had wanted out of Minnesota for several years, despite public comments to the contrary). Still, none of these players ever talked about walking away from all that money.
Some players have accepted buy-outs, but mostly they are of the lower salary variety. Sarunas Jasikevicius will be bought out of his $4M contract. But don't cry for him. Chances are he'll get a good portion of his salary from the buyout and of course he's then free to sign somewhere else. In some cases the player isn't really giving up that much cash.
Steve Francis was bought out of his contract, but he walked away with $30M of the $34M he had remaining. For disgruntled players, that has to be seen as a success story.
The way I see it, there are several scenarios that would make Kirilenko happy. All of them require him to be as public with his displeasure as possible. He'd love a buyout where he got most of the money owed to him. He'd embrace a trade to any team that didn't employ Jerry Sloan. The more the public hears his displeasure, the greater the pressure is on the Jazz to get rid of him.
But will the team bend under that pressure? The Milwaukee Bucks are taking a hard line with their personnel moves this offseason. First Yi Jianlian's handlers made it very clear before and after the draft that they didn't want their client in Milwaukee. Charlie Bell did everything he could to convince the Bucks to not match the offer the Maimi Heat gave him, even saying, "Right now, I don't know if I can go back there and play my hardest if your heart's not in it." (Sun-Sentinel)
Still, the Bucks signed Yi and matched Bell's offer. Will that make them a better team? We'll see.
Will Andrei Kirilenko walk away from 1,578,590,950 Rubles to play for the Motherland? We'll see.