NBA AM: Kirilenko Won’t Opt Out This Summer
The Minnesota Timberwolves signed veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko as their marquee free agent last summer to a two-year deal worth $20 million. The Timberwolves also took a calculated gamble on former All-Star guard Brandon Roy in free agency and set their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time since the 2004 campaign.
As it stands today, the Timberwolves occupy tenth place in the Western Conference standings and would miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. Roy has only appeared in five contests for Minnesota this season due to recurring knee trouble, while the Kirilenko signing has paid immediate dividends for the franchise.
Kirilenko has a player option for the next season worth $10.2 million and could decide to opt out in order to test the free agent waters, seek a long term contract with Minnesota or potentially secure a lucrative deal overseas to finish his career.
However, the eleven year NBA veteran says he’s absolutely certain he won’t be exercising the player option at season’s end and is intending on remaining in Minnesota.
“I’m going to stay in the NBA for sure,” Kirilenko told HOOPSWORLD. “There is no doubt about it. I like Minnesota and I like [head coach] Rick Adelman.”
“But we really need to get everyone back in the lineup,” Kirilenko added while admitting his frustration with Minnesota’s assortment of injuries this season. “It’s hard to play this way.”
The Timberwolves have been decimated by injuries this season and that’s putting it mildly.
Their leading scorer, Kevin Love, is expected to miss close to three months after reinjuring his right hand. There are legitimate concerns on whether Roy will ever be able to play another NBA game due to his chronic knee condition. Promising players such as Nikola Pekovic (quadriceps) and Alexey Shved (ankle) are both currently battling injuries, while young rotation players Chase Budinger (knee) and Malcolm Lee (hip) have missed the majority of the season. Head coach Rick Adelman (personal) hasn’t coached the club since January 5 as his wife battles an undisclosed illness.
Despite all of the time missed due to the injury, the Timberwolves are still in the thick of the hunt for one of the West’s final playoff spots.
“So far I think we’re doing a pretty good job staying alive,” Kirilenko said. “It’s pretty tough to play when you lose your head coach, then you lose so many players. It’s tough to play that way. Another problem is the rotation is always different [due to the injuries]. You get used to playing with a certain lineup, guys you feel comfortable but it is hard when the rotation changes every time. All we can do is to continue playing.”
“I think it’s the nature of the NBA because the season is long and very intense,” Kirilenko added. “There are a lot of possibilities that guys will get hurt. Unfortunately I think we’re a little bit over the limit but we can’t do anything about it. I think guys are going a pretty good job fighting hard. We can’t look back so we have to stay positive in this case.”
Kirilenko is the Timberwolves’ third leading scorer (13.6) and rebounder (6.9) behind Love and Pekovic but ranks as the team’s leader in steals (1.6) and blocks (1.2). The veteran forward played for CSKA Moscow during the lockout shortened campaign last season and opted not to return to the NBA after the work stoppage ended. After his play in the Russian league, Kirilenko represented the country in the Summer Olympics leading the team to the semifinal round.
Kirilenko says the time away from the NBA’s grueling 82 game regular season helped his body recover and he says his play on the court this season speaks for itself.
“Take a look,” Kirilenko said confidently. “I don’t think I lost a lot last year. I think I gained a little last year because the [NBA] season last year was crazy. It’s already an intense season and last season had even more aggressiveness and activity. That’s why a lot of injuries happened. I had a great time in Russia. I had a great schedule there, playing twice a week. So my body was able to recover. I played a great season there, a great Olympics and now I feel refreshed.”
With Kirilenko unlikely to opt out of his deal this summer, the Timberwolves have $63 million on the books for next season. The contracts for Roy ($5m) and reserve center Greg Stiemsma ($2.6m) are non-guaranteed. The team will have a decision to make regarding Pekovic who is likely to become a restricted free agent. Productive big men come at a premium and if the emerging center commands a deal in the $10 million per season range, the Timberwolves could be poised to enter luxury tax territory.
Mike D’Antoni Gets Vote Of Confidence From Lakers’ Management
The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this season. The team has won just two games since the start of 2013 and is currently twelfth in the Western Conference standings, just 1.5 games above the rebuilding Sacramento Kings.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni took over the reins of the club early in the campaign after Mike Brown was fired following a slow start. However D’Antoni hasn’t been able to right the ship during his tenure calling the shots compiling a woeful 12-19 at the helm.
As expected D’Antoni has been rumored to be on the hot seat if he can’t turn a lineup featuring Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol around at some point this season.
But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has given D’Antoni a vote of confidence and dismissed rumors of a potential coaching change coming down the road. D’Antoni signed a four year deal with the club back in November.
“Without a doubt, we have utmost confidence in Mike as a coach,” Kupchak told ESPN Los Angeles. “I think if you spoke to him, his vision on Day 1 was dramatically different than it is today. It’s the coach’s job to adjust and to make changes. Sometimes a player is just not going to fit. Sometimes a coach has to make changes and compromise in the way he’s done things and I think that’s what Mike is going through right now is just the process.”
The pace for the Western Conference’s last playoff spot is currently being set at 42 wins by the Houston Rockets, meaning the Lakers (17-24) would need to need to finish the season 25-16 (61 percent win rate) during the second half of the season to reach the victory total as it stands today.
Trouble is brewing in Los Angeles, but D’Antoni’s status as the team’s head coach appears to be safe after the vote of confidence from Lakers executives.
Nichols Showcasing Offensive in the D-League
Former Syracuse sharpshooter Demetris Nichols is with the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBA Development League this season and over the last two weeks he has been one of the hottest shooters in the league. In this video interview with HOOPSWORLD he talks about what he needs to do to get an NBA call up.
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