Andrei Kirlenko and CSKA Moscow: Week of 10/10
Andrei Kirilenko taking the floor for CSKA Moscow came earlier than anyone (himself, CSKA coach Jonas Kazlauskas*) had expected due to an injury to [Russian national team teammate] Andrey Vorontsevich. When AK played his first game, he’d only had two practices with the team.
*resume includes previously coaching the Lithuanian, Chinese, and Greek national teams.
Random Note: Just how should I feel about CSKA jacking my AK ’09-’10 mix and uploading it onto their Youtube?
Andrei’s first two games for CSKA were “significant” for different reasons. The first, a close away game (loss) at Spartak St. Petersburg, marked AK’s return to his hometown and was against his first pro team. If you remember, AK had said all summer long that the only teams he wanted to play for were CSKA and Spartak St. Petersburg. He got identical offers from both teams, but ultimately opted to go with the former because CSKA plays in the top-tier Euroleague tournament, whereas the latter plays in the second-tier Eurocup tournament.
CSKA had contacted AK in July as soon as his contract with the Jazz expired, but AK didn’t start thinking about free agency until Eurobasket was over in mid-September.
CSKA was down 8 with 3:24 left when the coach put AK back in. With 1:18 left, Spartak’s lead was down to 1. AK had a costly turnover with 41 seconds left, but Spartak was unable to capitalize. With 11 seconds left and CKSA down 2, AK got an offensive rebound off of a missed FT and was fouled. He made 1-2 FTs to cut the lead to 1; CSKA fouled; Spartak’s Patrick Beverley (American who’s trying to get on the Russian national team) made both FTs. Beverley then fouled CSKA’s Teodosic, who also went 1-2 and then missed a 3 at the buzzer.
AK’s final line: 15 points (4-4 from floor; co-team high), 5 rebounds (team high), 1 assist, 1 block, and drew 6 fouls (7-9 on FTs; team high) in 23 minutes.
When asked about the large ovation he got when he was introduced, AK joked that 2-3,000 of the 5,000 fans at the game were his friends. (His dad was also there.)
The second game, a home blowout win against BC Enisey, marked AK’s first time playing pro ball in Moscow since he left for the NBA, for the team he was playing for before leaving for the NBA.
The game was also much-anticipated because it would be the professional debut of Andrei Kirilenko and [CSKA captain] Viktor Khryapa as teammates. The two have known each other since playing together on Russia’s national youth teams as, well, youths, and had always hoped to be able to play together on a pro team.
When AK’s CSKA signing was announced, Khryapa said that when he signed with CSKA in 2008, he was asked why he signed a four-year deal. His response at the time: AK’s contract with the Jazz would expire in the summer of 2011, and they needed a year to play together for CSKA. (Khryapa also joked that he has been lobbying CSKA management to sign the third musketeer, Sergei Monia.)
Khryapa was dealing with an injury during the last game, so this was their first game together. It was in fact such a storyline that the headlines of many of the news stories and recaps filed in the Russian press focused on this aspect of the game. From CSKA’s own game recap (via Google Translate):
Three minutes before the [half,] finally happened what had been waiting with Khryapa Kirilenko–they were both at the same time on the court as part of a club team.
The game ended up being a 32-point blowout, and AK’s 22 minutes was a team-high. 5 points on 2-4 shooting, 6 rebounds (team-high), 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.
Khryapa after the game: I am glad to again put on a uniform CSKA pleased that a number in the same form of Andrei Kirilenko.