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Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow: Playing Catchup

February 28, 2012

The “playing catchup,” of course, refers to me posting and not CSKA, which continues to (steam)roll over opponents.

Since my last post on CSKA, they have gone 11-1 over their three leagues including a 50-point win over Minsk 2006.

The sole loss in that span (Jan. 21 – Feb. 25) was also their first Euroleague loss (by four points) this season. CSKA is now 36-3 on the season (14-1 in the Euroleague, 10-1 (1st) in the Russian PBL, and 12-1 (1st) in the VTB United League). It’s already qualified for the Euroleague Quarterfinals, but its final game in the Top 16 (first round of the Playoffs) is this Thursday.

AK continues to rank first in Euroleague Performance Index Rating*, while taking just six shots per game. The player in second is nearly four points behind.

* (Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks + Fouls Drawn) – (Missed Field Goals + Missed Free Throws + Turnovers + Shots Rejected + Fouls Committed)

CSKA’s season seemed to hit a huge snag when Viktor Khryapa (AK’s BFF and Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year in ’09-’10) suffered a dislocated finger on Feb. 2. The injury was supposed to sideline him through the end of March, but he was thankfully back on the floor, albeit with a heavily bandaged hand, by Feb. 22 (though Jonas Kazlauskas only subbed him in during garbage time at the end of that game).

One thing that always piques my interest is Kazlauskas’ rest/substitution pattern. It’s so unlike what you see in the NBA (with Gregg Popovich’s system somewhere in-between). If a player gets injured, he almost always comes off the bench when he returns. This goes for everyone, from #1 to #15.

Kazlauskas also has no qualms about resting players for big games (i.e. Euroleague games) even though CSKA only plays two games per week. On Feb. 4 vs. Prokom, he rested his entire starting lineup (CSKA then proceded to suffer its only loss in Euroleague this season, but that’s beside the point). It’s just so different than what you’d see in the NBA.

Think I’ve mentioned this before, but I also really like how the team has all inactive players signing autographs in the arena concourse before home games.

One other game story from RG when CSKA played an away game at Lokomotiv Kuban on 1/28 (Google Translated):

Visit the team Andrei Kirilenko has caused an incredible interest in Krasnodar. And as to the local “Basket-hall” from the city center can be reached only by a single road (despite the promise to improve the situation of the Kuban and the governor and the mayor of the regional center, while not changing anything), moving it froze well before the starting whistle. But the desire to see with my own eyes the best basketball squad for today in Europe was so great that drivers throw their cars on the far outskirts of the palace of sports and overcame the remaining distance on foot.

Odds and ends from over the past month:

One. For some reason, Robert Horry visited with CSKA in January:

Big Shot Bob on his first impression of AK way back when (Google translated, via Sport Express):

Two. AK’s made headlines over the past month for a good reason: his charity work. Apart from his foundation bringing kids from orphanages to games, he has also been mentioned in the news for donating to a fund for a 4-year old Russian girl with leukemia to get treated in Germany, and donating a signed jersey to an auction to raise funds for a 10-year old Russian boy with leukemia to get treated in London. Andrei’s jersey fetched US$ 725, which was second only to a signed Cristiano Ronaldo t-shirt that went for US$ 860.

He also had a charity event for his birthday. In lieu of gifts, guests were asked to make donations with all proceeds going to the families of the Lokomotiv hockey team that was killed in a plane crash last year.

According to teammate Anton Ponkrashov, CSKA players each donated 300 to 500 euros. Items donated from other athletes were also auctioned off, and the night raised around US$ 10,000.

(As you can probably guess, I will be using this opportunity to complain about AK’s hair. I will do so later in the post.)

Three. It’s a travesty that whoever is responsible for this child let him go to a CSKA game/out in public dressed like this:

(I take this back if this is a disadvantaged child who received the cap from a clothing drive. In which case the cap was probably donated by a Laker fan…who no longer had any need for it…when he replaced all his Laker gear with Heat gear…when Lebron took his talent to South Beach.)

Four. [New Jersey Nets owner] Mikhail Prokhorov’s presidential campaign in Russia is underway, and AK was announced as a member of his Public Council earlier this month. Far as I can tell, individuals who are registered as part of a candidate’s council are allowed to campaign for the candidate and be in polling stations as observers on Election Day. Or something like that.

Prokhorov was sitting courtside at CSKA’s home game against Olympiacos on 2/22, and was also at AK’s birthday event.

AK, meanwhile, appears in a campaign commercial for Prokhorov:

Five. Well, AK had a good run, hair-wise, relatively speaking, that lasted for four-ish months. As you can see, however, he has once again crossed over the line into ridiculous territory. When your hair is looking like this, it’s time to get a haircut. Come on, man.

Six. From an AK interview published on RealGM a couple of weeks ago:

On the NBA:

My NBA career is definitely not over. I am looking forward for the next season to move back to the NBA. I think have few years left there.

On the Jazz:

I still keep in touch with them, watch the results and cheer for the Jazz…The Jazz were very friendly and hospitable to my family and me. It means a lot to me. I spent 10 years of my life there, probably the best years of my life. I hope one day I will get back there. I still keep in touch with the guys. Raja Bell, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, C.J. Miles…Definitely, the Utah Jazz would be my leading priority on coming back to the NBA. Ten years with the Jazz, you can’t throw it away. I have great memories for there.

Seven. While we’re on the subject of AK, check out this video posted by JazzBasketball1 today of highlights from a 24-point game by AK his rookie season.

Highlights include a Mailman baseball pass to AK for a breakaway dunk (WordPress is not letting me upload the .gif right now). Also, warning: You might want to turn away at the 1:05 mark. AK + Tag = a lot of white, bright, white skin.

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