Stay or Go: Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko (AP)

In this series, we at The Brooklyn Game examine the players on this Nets roster that have a decision to make — and what the Nets can do. Today’s look is at Andrei Kirilenko.

What the Nets can offer Andrei Kirilenko:

The steal of the 2013 NBA offseason (at the time), the Nets used their taxpayer mid-level exception last July to nab former NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko. The deal was worth $6.5 million over two years, with the second year ($3.3 million) being a player option.

In June of 2013, the Russian-born Kirilenko opted out of the second year of his two-year, $20 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. If you think that Kirilenko taking a $7 million pay cut was too good to be true, you’re not alone, as accusations of an under-the- table deal from Nets owner and Kirilenko countrymate Mikhail Prokhorov littered the NBA rumor mill. The rumblings led to an official NBA investigation, in which the league found nothing untoward about the Nets deal with Kirilenko. Sorry, James Dolan.

So where does that leave us? Kirilenko has until June 29th to opt into the second year of his contract, which would earn him $3.3 million for the 2014-15 season. This may come as a shock if you just learned what a basketball is or that Brooklyn is a borough of New York City, but the Nets are over the salary cap. So if Kirilenko opts out, the Nets can only offer the amount ($3.3 mil) that he already turned down.

Why Andrei Kirilenko will stay:

Kirilenko was obviously motivated to come to Brooklyn, as he turned down $7 million (have I mentioned that?), or roughly the entire salary for Marcin Gortat in 2013-14. ranted, a large part of the reason he came to Brooklyn was to chase a title, which seems like a bit of a pipe dream heading into next season, at least at this point.

But championship ambitions aside, the three-time All-NBA Defensive team forward does not enter the free agent market from a position of strength. Hampered by injuries throughout 2013-14, the 32-year-old logged a career low in games played (45), minutes per game (19) and virtually every statistical category thereafter. He also told The Brooklyn Game back in February that he viewed his contract as a two-year deal, not a player option.

Of lesser concern, Kirilenko is planning to open a Hooters restaurant franchise in Moscow, the first of its kind in Russia. If he has entrepreneurial ambitions in his homeland, what better ally to keep than Prokhorov, the Nets owner/Russian billionaire playboy oligarch?

Speaking of playboys, NYC is not a bad place for Kirilenko to, ahem, consider his yearly “pass” granted by his wife.

Why Andrei Kirilenko will go:

Kirilenko was all about championships when he came to Brooklyn. He wouldn’t likely make more money than with the Nets, but if a championship is the be-all-end-all for him at this point, it’s conceivable that there’s mini-mid-level deal with his name on it from a more legitimate contender.

Kirilenko may not be bargaining from a position of financial strength, but we are talking about a guy who as recently as 2012 signed a deal for $10 million. Injuries aside, he also didn’t exactly have a clear-cut role in Jason Kidd’s rotation. The Russian army knife received two DNP-CD’s (did not play-coach’s decision) in 12 playoff games. If he does his due diligence in free agency and can find another team where he makes more money and has a better role, he might take it.

Prediction:

This may be wishful thinking as I am a fan of the winged wingman, but I think Kirilenko stays.

Considering his injuries and his initial desire to come to Brooklyn, I think Jason Kidd, Billy King and Prokhorov can sell him on Brooklyn for one more year. Kidd didn’t play Kirilenko in game 2 against Miami, but he played him in 15+ minutes of the last three games of the series. He can still be a useful piece if healthy.