Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Updated: September 21, 1:34 AM ET
Report: Kirilenko wants Jazz to trade him
ESPN.com news services
Roughly three months removed from their longest playoff run in a decade, the Utah Jazz could have a starting lineup with less firepower next season.
In a blog post made Tuesday on the Russian Web site Sport Today, Andrei Kirilenko said he seeks a trade from the Jazz and voices his concern with playing next season for coach Jerry Sloan.
The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed that the post was made by the Jazz forward.
Kirilenko, an NBA All-Star in 2004, had his worst season last year despite the Jazz winning 51 games and advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1997-98. He played in 70 games, averaging 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season after playing in 69 games in 2005-06 and averaging 15.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 3.1 bpg.
Despite a difficult NBA campaign, Kirilenko stood out at the European Basketball Tournament, leading his native Russia to the championship to clinch an Olympic berth. He was named tournament MVP and said on the blog that playing for Russian coach David Blatt helped him decipher his future.
The Tribune translated part of Kirilenko's blog posting as: "In a week, I need to join the Utah Jazz again but quite frankly I'm not really happy about that. The past season was bad for me and I was really disappointed. I've thought about it a lot and I came to a decision. I want to leave Utah Jazz. The European championships that just ended became sort of a test for me and now I think I know what I want to do.
"Coach Sloan is one of the reasons. It's not the only reason. ... [Sloan's] main method to motivate players is to create a feeling of guilt. Our wages, our errors in games and whatever we do beyond playing for the Jazz is also an excuse to criticize us. I want to play basketball. I want to be happy playing basketball, but I don't want to be a robot in Sloan's system."
Kirilenko's agent, Marc Fleisher, did not return phone calls Wednesday from The Associated Press.
The Jazz open training camp on Oct. 6 and Kevin O'Connor, the team's senior vice president of basketball operations, expects Kirilenko in camp.
"We explained to him when everybody was supposed to be back and we expect him to be here," O'Connor told the newspaper.
Kirilenko said in his blog post that he told O'Connor of his request a few weeks ago but hasn't heard back from him.
"I don't want to be there and mechanically fulfill a contract. Unfortunately, it's been more than a week, but I haven't heard from the Jazz leadership," Kirilenko wrote. "There's no response negative or positive and this silence is just one more evidence of the way they treat me. Nevertheless, I'm really hopeful that Utah Jazz leadership will realize that our relationship is over and it's time for us to part ways."
Kirilenko was frustrated with his role for most of the past season. Following Game 1 of the Jazz's opening-round playoff series against Houston, Kirilenko was visibly upset. He played limited minutes in the first two games of the series and was pulled by Sloan from Game 2 after missing a nine-foot jumper.
He averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in the playoffs as the Jazz relied almost entirely on Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, which led to some bitter comments in the locker room after San Antonio eliminated Utah, 4-1.
Without giving names, Williams accused some teammates of starting vacation early. Kirilenko was asked about it as he was cleaning out his locker and declined to comment.
Kirilenko, one of the last remaining players from the John Stockton/Karl Malone era, signed a six-year, $86 million deal three years ago that made him Utah's highest-paid player.
After the season, he complained to a Russian newspaper about his role in the offense and that he felt he was being treated like a rookie instead of a franchise player. Sloan said in June that the team would keep Kirilenko but that Utah would also try to do what's best for the team.
"We're not looking. I don't like to trade people," Sloan said. "But we've got to do what's best for the franchise, always.
"He's got to come and play," Sloan said. "I mean, when he doesn't come and play hard, he can blame it on whatever he wants, but all I can say is what I see on the floor. We loved the way when he plays great. And he can be good all the time if he works at it."
Kirilenko's contract could be a big hurdle if he wants out of Utah because other teams might be unwilling to assume the contract, which runs through 2011.
O'Connor told the newspaper on Tuesday he has spoken with Kirilenko but declined to comment on the conversation.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
2007 Season Stats