Andrei Kirilenko: 45 G, 4 GS, 19.0 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.89 SPG, 0.42 BPG, .513 FG% .200 3P%, .513 FT%, 12.48 PER, 0.8 EWA

AP

AP

grade-c-plusAndrei Kirilenko changed his production in a subtle way: though he's been known throughout his career as a stat-stuffer, including the only small forward in NBA history to lead the league in blocks or blocks per game, Kirilenko focused instead on moving without the ball and playing man defense. He did an incredible amount of little things that don't show up in the stat sheet, after a career of filling up box scores.

Kirilenko played admirably throughout the season, fighting through what he called the worst back spasms of his career and other various injuries, but didn't ever look like he was playing at full strength. His numbers dovetailed, even accounting for his tempered playing time.

He also weirdly forgot how to make free throws midway through the season. It was staggering how bad he looked: the ball leapt out of his hand before he followed through like a scared dog. In practices, he looked fine: of the little I saw, I'd estimate he hit about 80 to 85 percent. (Coaches, feel free to correct me.) But he shot just 51.3 percent from the line in the not-small sample size of 119 free throws on the season, way below his career average.

It's also easy to forget Kirilenko wasn't supposed to be on the Nets at all. He was spurned by a shady move from the Timberwolves, who reportedly told him they'd give him a three-year contract if he opted out of his $10 million deal... only to never follow up with that contract. Just shocking that Kevin Love wants out of there.

Kirilenko saw a drying market, an opportunity to win a championship (however silly that looks in hindsight), and signed on in Brooklyn for a $7 million discount. Considering that he only played about half the season and set a career-low in minutes per game, the contract didn't end up being as big a bargain as you might expect. He did say to me in an interview in February that he's thinking of his contract as a two-year contract (not one with a player option), but told reporters at the end of the season he wasn't sure if he'd pick up his option.

Before the season, Andrei Kirilenko listed his playing career in a two-to-four year window, and he's got to make the decision whether or not to pick up his player option. Considering his diminished playing time, lack of production, and health concerns, I'd expect him to come back. He showed he's got something left in the tank this season, if only he can stay healthy.

Must-read: The Anatomy of A Stopper: Talking With Andrei Kirilenko, the off-ball superstar

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AP

AP

The Brooklyn Nets are down 2-0 in their best-of-seven second-round series against the Miami Heat. With possibly just two games remaining in Brooklyn's season, here's the big things we'll be watching.

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Nets Raptors Basketball

The Nets and Raptors start their playoff series Saturday in Toronto. (AP)

 

What had happened was: The Nets cast aside their usual uniforms and instead collectively donned a massive white flag in the final game of the regular season, which they lost 114-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game mercifully brought to an end a streak of uninspired, boring basketball the Nets largely played over the final two weeks.

The Nets made rest their first priority, as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett, Alan Anderson, and Mirza Teletovic sat this one out. Instead, the Nets fielded a vaunted five of Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague, Marcus Thornton, Andray Blatche, and Jason Collins. Andrei Kirilenko and Mason Plumlee made appearances of the bench, which was weird, because I wasn’t used to seeing NBA players on the court when they got in the game.

That was: A chore. No one wanted to watch the Nets’ collection of also-rans come out and skirmish with a non-playoff game when the team clearly didn’t give a damn, and this was in many senses not even an NBA game.

Where they stand: After a few days of jockeying, the dust has settled. The Nets will take the No. 6 seed and play the Toronto Raptors, who beat the New York Knicks Wednesday to cement their spot in the No. 3 seed, in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will take place at the Air Canada Centre Saturday on ESPN. Time TBD. With the loss, the Nets locked a spot in Miami’s half of the Eastern Conference bracket, which means Brooklyn will play No. 2 Miami in the second round if the Nets advance and Miami takes care of business against No. 7 Charlotte.

This came amid much dismay that the Nets would have to play the Chicago Bulls in the first round once again. The No. 4 Bulls will instead play the No. 5 Washington Wizards.

The stats: Well, they weren’t great. Marcus Thornton led the Nets with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting — and shoot he did. The cuffs were off for Thornton, who is not shy about shooting in the first place. This was an exhibition in gunning.

Andray Blatche posted 20 points (8-of-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds and featured his usual collection of moves and hilarity. Andrei Kirilenko MADE A PAIR OF FREE THROWS and I don’t care about anything else he did.

Jason Collins was set free to fire, logging eight points on eight shots. The lumbering big man played 39 minutes, and you have to figure he’ll never play that many in an NBA game again.

Shot Chart Rorschach Test: A Christmas-themed square donut.
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Is Marquis Teague in the D-League yet? That’s a nope.

Game Grades: Read 'em here.

Was this wise? Maybe. Williams needed the rest. If Johnson needed it, he never would have told you so. Pierce has his shoulder thingy, and Garnett sweats a new ocean after each two-minute stint. There were reasons not to care, but there were also reasons to try and avoid Miami in the second round and stay in rhythm.

Also, I take a little more seriously Jason Kidd’s assertion that Garnett’s minutes load won’t increase in the playoffs given that he had absolutely no chance to increase it incrementally during the regular season. The Nets can probably only count on him for 22 minutes a game in the postseason.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

Shaun Livingston, not doin’ things: He didn’t play. That toe is really actin’ up.

Can you give me a comparison for the number of fast-break dunks the Nets gave up in the second half? Sure thing!

Across the river: The Knicks lost to the Toronto Raptors, putting to bed their miserable season and giving them 37 wins, matching the SCHOENE projection that Knicks fans were quick to call absurd before the season began.

Take that, Masai Ujiri.

Next up: The Nets start what they’ve been building toward since Jan. 1. Saturday they get to show that they really were built for the playoffs.

 

The Nets had plenty to joke around about on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Nets had plenty to joke around about on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 

Here's a roundup of last night's Nets festivites:

What happened: The Nets thoroughly obliterated a Denver Nuggets team that is a shell of its healthy self, setting the tone early by going up 29-8 after the first quarter and never letting it get closer than 20 points in atypical Nets fashion. The Nets won the second game of a back-to-back on the road, one night after getting spanked by the Portland Trail Blazers without LaMarcus Aldridge and Thomas Robinson and indicating total embarrassment to reporters after the game.

You could tell Brooklyn's intensity was at its peak, and it was clear Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had no designs of losing this game. The Nets went on to pick up their first win in Denver since Jan. 2007.

Where they stand: The Nets are now 27-29, once again squarely facing that two-games-under-.500 plateau that has plagued them for the last few weeks. They're now 6th in the Eastern Conference, a half game ahead of Charlotte and two games behind Washington, which has won its last five including a triple-overtime thriller over Toronto Thursday.

The stats: The Nets somehow ended up shooting only 47.6 percent, but they held Denver to 37.5 percent and 6-of-22 from deep. The Nuggets had 30 made field goals and 24 turnovers. That race was close for most of the game.

Pierce led the Nets with 18 points. Everyone on the Nets' active roster scored. Yes, that includes Jason Collins, who had 3 points.

If I were a blowhard, I'd say the only important statistic is 1-0, the Nets' record in this game.

Fast breaking the Fast Breakers: 

Vintage Pierce: Pierce only had to play 22 minutes, but he was at his peak. He nailed threes from the top of the key and whirled into icy turnaround jumpers at the elbows. The Nets need this Pierce for the balance of the season in order to compete.

Joe Johnson still might not be healthy: Johnson sat out a game at the beginning of February as a result of knee tendinitis. The way he's moving and shooting, it appears to me that his knee is still barking at him. Johnson's not one to complain, and he never made an excuse last year when he bravely battled plantar fasciitis in the first-round series against the Bulls. But it might be best for the team if Johnson takes some time off now rather than soldiering through it. Given Kidd's hyper-conservative tendencies with injury and rest with the rest of his roster, I'm not sure why Johnson isn't getting the same opportunity to heal.

Kirilenko has been working on his granny shot:

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I defy you to show me a more Kirilenko shot than that.

Shaun Livingston, doing things: He did things. Nothing worthy of a GIF or video. But he was there. Stuff got done by him. He finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and more than zero stuffs done.

The Alan Anderson/Marcus Thornton Experiment: Alan Anderson didn't play in the first three quarters of this game, and that was notable because he has played in every single game this season for the Nets. He's not shooting well (he's under 40 percent from the field this season and his three-point stroke has been ice cold in February). But I don't think his three-quarter DNP is necessarily a harbinger for things to come. This game was a good excuse to get Marcus Thornton some extended minutes and see what he could do with his new teammates. I doubt Kidd has made a decision either way as to which of them will get the bulk of the backup guard minutes down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Andray Blatche wants nothing to do with your piggy-back rides:

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Andray Blatche was really good in this game, though: This was a quintessential #TheBestOfBlatche game. Granted, he wasn't wildly inconsistent and unpredictable, but he did all the good Blatche stuff with none of the dumpster-fire Blatche stuff. He had 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals in 18 minutes. And he drained a three from the wing.

JASON COLLINS HITS A LONG 2:

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Go back to Germany, Dirk. Your services are no longer required. Jason Collins got this.

 

Mike Miller, Andray Blatche

The Nets may welcome back Andray Blatche (center), Joe Johnson, and Andrei Kirilenko Thursday. (AP)

The Nets may have something close to a full roster -- without Brook Lopez, of course -- when they face the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

Guard Joe Johnson, forward Andrei Kirilenko, and center Andray Blatche all did physical work with the team in today's practice, getting through without any injuries, according to reports from team practice.

Kirilenko had missed three straight games after reporting to the team with a sore left calf on Wednesday. He told The Brooklyn Game last week that the calf injury had no connection whatsoever to the back spasms he'd felt earlier in the year, and that his back felt "perfect."

Blatche bruised his hip in the first half of the team's 120-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday, attempting to return to the game to no avail. He traveled with the team to Indiana Saturday in the hopes of playing, but sat out both Saturday and Monday to rest the hip. Blatche also sat out four games earlier this week after getting sent home for "personal reasons."

Johnson sat out to rest with left knee tendinitis in the team's 108-102 victory over the 76ers, the second game he's missed all year. According to coach Jason Kidd, Johnson had dealt with tendinitis for a couple of weeks, but is "one not to complain" and tried to play through the pain.

 

Chris Andersen, Andrei Kirilenko

AP/Frank Franklin III

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For brief moments, youthful exuberance bursts from Andrei Kirilenko.... MORE →

 

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Iman Shumpert, Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson (AP)

Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson and forward Andrei Kirilenko will sit out against the Philadelphia 76ers Monday, coach Jason Kidd announced before the game.

Johnson, who was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve has dealt with right knee tendinitis for some time, according to Kidd, but hasn't let it keep him out until now. "Joe's one not to complain," he added.

Kidd classified the game as a "night off" for Johnson, but they'll re-evaluate his status Tuesday. The Nets have two days off before their next game, at home Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs.



Kirilenko first nursed his sore calf on Wednesday's practice, and has not participated in games or physical drills since. The Nets are 12-5 when Kirilenko plays, and 8-20 when he sits.

Andray Blatche was listed as questionable with a bruised right hip, and is still a game-time decision. He was warming up on the court before Kidd spoke to the media, normally a good sign.

 

Andrei Kirilenko, LeBron James

Andrei Kirilenko is one of the league's smartest defenders. (AP)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- In a season of uncertainty for the Brooklyn Nets, there's been one constant: the team wins when Andrei Kirilenko's around.... MORE →

 

This week, Andrei Kirilenko sat down with The Brooklyn Game to discuss his defensive strategies in a variety of situations and against some of the league's best scorers. The full piece will go up in a few days, but with a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder looming Friday, I wanted to post a brief preview of Kirilenko breaking down his strategies when defending Kevin Durant.

In particular, I'd noticed that Kirilenko fronted Durant more often than most other players, and I was curious about the strategy. Kirilenko is questionable to play Friday with a strained calf.

Listen to his answer above, or if you're not able to watch a video right now, read the transcript below.
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Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets signed Andrei Kirilenko partially because of his ability to guard long wing players like Oklahoma City Thunder forward and MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant. But after suffering a calf injury, Kirilenko may not get the chance.

Kirilenko did not practice for the second straight day after injuring the calf, and he's officially listed as questionable for Friday night's game against the Thunder.

"It's just a little bothering me, but I don't know," Kirilenko said yesterday. "Tomorrow we'll see. Usually it takes a couple of days to feel it."

Kirilenko also said that the injury had no connection to his back problems from earlier in the season. "Just started feeling a little pressure."

 

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