Kirilenko not playing with the team he expected
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
If Andrei Kirilenko ever said he wanted a ‘do-over’, you couldn’t blame him.
Coming off a season with CSKA Moscow, in which he was named 2011-12 Euroleague Player of the Year, and then the London Olympics, where he led Russia to a bronze medal, he got his chance to return to the NBA, where he had played 10 years before with the Utah Jazz.
A free agent, Kirilenko had his pick of teams. He liked the Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster, and he heard positive words from other NBA players about coach Rick Adelman’s offense. Kirilenko pictured himself fitting into Adelman’s free-flowing style that gives players freedom, especially a 6-9 forward with scoring and passing skills.
He also pictured himself playing with forwards Kevin Love and Chase Budinger, center Nikola Pekovic and guards Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Malcolm Lee, J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour.
Instead, Roy and Lee were injured and out for the season, Budinger has been out and not expected back until after the All-Star game at the earliest. Love, Rubio, Pekovic, Berea and Shved have all missed games because of injuries. Even Adelman missed 11 games to be with his ailing wife (he returned to practice on Monday and should be back for Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers).
In all, Minnesota players have missed 162 games because of injuries. This wasn’t the team he signed up to play with.
“We’re a little big banged up,” Kirilenko told USA TODAY Sports, understanding his understatement. “We have a lot of guys out, and even the head coach, and it’s pretty tough to play that way when the rotation is different.”
Tough to play is another understatement. In the past 10 games, the Timberwolves are 1-9. In January, they are 3-11. This after being in the thick of the playoff race on Jan. 1, 1/2-game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the final playoff spot.
It really seemed to go downhill when Love broke his right hand — that will keep him out until at least mid-March — on Jan. 3 and Lee needed knee and hip surgery a couple weeks later. Pekovic has missed the … [For more on Andrei Kirilenko not playing with the team he expected, click here.]