The steal of the Brooklyn Nets offseason may not be so much of a steal if he can’t see the floor.
The Nets signed small forward Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year contract worth $6.2 million, the second year a player option. This came after Kirilenko opted out of a one-year deal worth $10 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The deal was considered so egregious that the NBA investigated the signing, due to the Russian Kirilenko’s ties with Nets owner and fellow Russian Mikhail Prokhorov. (They found no evidence of wrongdoing.)
Deron Williams, who played four years with Kirilenko on the Utah Jazz, said before the season that his former teammate was “as big an addition as (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce).”
But Kirilenko hasn’t had much of a chance to earn that contract. Kirilenko’s played in just 53 minutes over four of the team’s first ten games, sitting out the rest as he nurses a sore back. He first felt back spasms in preseason, shuffling in and out of playing shape ever since.
Kirilenko says he’s had back spasms before, but this is the longest they’ve ever lingered, making him and team trainers extra-cautious.
“It’s just all up to the doctors,” Kirilenko said Wednesday, after sitting out practice and doing some light shooting afterwards. “If they are really confident, because I am not confident. I am really trying to rely on the doctors and what they want for me because it is a little bit longer than I expect. Taking a little bit precaution.”
As part of his recovery, Kirilenko has done motion drills, running to get into playing shape. But he still thinks he’s a few days away from NBA game speed.
“(I) should be able to move freely,” Kirilenko said of his recovery. “If you move and if I move. Because my game is very energetic moving-wise, a lot of cuts, if I feel like something is stopping me from that, I am not good … just staying in the corner and waiting for the shot. I am not that kind of player. I have to be really… I have to make sure that I am really free of any pain in any movement.”
But he admits that this is unlike any pain he’s had before.
“Usually I know how long it takes, and (it’s taken) way longer than I usually have it,” Kirilenko said, a frustrated smile creeping across his face. “So I am trying to take care a little bit more. That is why I am not that confident.”