3) Andrei Kirilenko
As thrilled as I am about Kirilenko, I’ll admit that my knowledge on him isn’t completely up to par. Therefore, I invited friend of The Brooklyn Game, diehard Timberwolf fan, monocle-rocker and CBSSports writer Zach Harper to break down the greatness of Andrei Kirilenko. Let’s do it.
1. The Kirilenko-Nets signing is _____.
Essential. After the trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, I didn’t think of the Brooklyn Nets as more of a contender in the East than in the previous season. Garnett will be helpful for team defense, but KG and Pierce really wore down over the course of a full 82 games last season and looked kind of awkward in the playoffs. I know they won’t have to do as much with this Nets’ starting lineup, but I still remained dubious about what they were adding. Brooklyn needed a wing defender badly after dealing Gerald Wallace and Pierce just can’t cut it in that respect, especially if you want to be a contender in a conference with LeBron James. Bringing in Kirilenko to be that guy now gives them much more balance. He’s such a good defender that when asked last season why he doesn’t rack up a bunch of fouls, he actually said because he chooses not to foul guys. He’s that smart of a defender.
2. How does AK’s Swiss-army-knife-ness fit into the Nets rotation?
Personally, I think he should have more of a role in the rotation than Pierce and Pierce should be more of a specialty scorer off the bench. However, I don’t expect it to go that way. AK will probably come off the bench most nights and that’s fine. The nice thing is you can play him comfortably at the 3 or the 4 and he’ll just adjust his game to give the Nets what they need. He can defend both positions well and with added depth of playing next to KG and Pierce, he shouldn’t be taxed by too many minutes like he was in Minnesota.
3. What were his strengths offensively in Minnesota?
He’s just a brilliant basketball player. He sees the game in ways that few other players do. He’s a couple steps ahead of each play and can get frustrated at missed opportunities when teammates don’t see the same things he does. That’s not a knock on him; he doesn’t disrupt team chemistry or morale with that frustration. He lets it go pretty quickly. But he’s a basketball savant. I’m a little curious how he fits in with this team offensively because Deron and Joe can be so ball dominant, but I expect him to adapt and find the spaces the defense abandons.
4. What were his strengths defensively in Minnesota?
His length and anticipation work in a symbiotic relationship to really make defenders work. He had a four-game stretch last season in which he had to defend LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and James Harden. He relished the opportunity to do so because he loves going against the best. Maybe it’s a Russian mentality, but he seems to approach these athletic endeavors as a game of chess, trying to stay steps ahead of the competition and trick them into making mental mistakes.
5. Is this guy still productive at 32? Or are we looking at Gerald Wallace 2.0?
He’s still productive, but you can’t expect him to stretch the floor. He’s still not a good shooter, but he can do everything else. He’s great catching a pass and attacking the defense with a quick dribble drive as they rotate. His passing skills are exquisite and he can rebound when needed to. Not having to do as much in Brooklyn should help the injury concerns he brings with him, but it’s hard to know if it will eradicate them.