Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Andrei Kirilenko to play in Europe
ESPN.com news services
Former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko has signed a three-year contract with CSKA Moscow that gives him an option to return to the NBA if the lockout ends.
Kirilenko, who played for CSKA Moscow until joining the Jazz in 2001, said he would donate any money he earns in Russia to his charitable foundation.
"I am glad to be back with the team where I spent my years of adolescence," Kirilenko said, according to a news release from the Euroleague. "It's a pleasure to have a chance to play for Russian fans, my friends and relatives."
Kirilenko will become an unrestricted free agent once the 2011-12 NBA campaign begins but has expressed a desire to play for the team that drafted him 24th overall in 1999.
The 30-year-old grew up in Russia but gained dual citizenship recently.
He averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds last season but battled injuries.
Team president Andrei Vatutin said the signing was a win-win for both sides, even if the lockout ends and Kirilenko returns to the NBA.
"We understand perfectly all the risks of his possible departure but we knowingly take them," Vatutin said. "Even if he leaves the team in a month or two -- depending on his desire -- Kirilenko will play several games, and his participation will add to the interest toward our team," Kazlauskas said.
CSKA Moscow coach Jonas Kazlauskas said as a rule, he doesn't like the idea of bringing in NBA players during the lockout. But Kirilenko, because of his stature in Russian basketball, is the exception, he said.
"Andrei is the star of Russian and world basketball, he means for his country as much as (Arvydas) Sabonis for Lithuania, Pau Gasol for Spain, (Dirk) Nowitzki for Germany," Kazlauskas said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.