Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow: Week of 1/9
This week’s two games may have been Andrei’s second and third games back from injury, but he is definitely back in form. Just in time too, with Euroleague Top 16 starting next week.
The first game of the week was a VTB United League game at Lietuvos Rytas, which is the team of Jonas Valanciunas. Keep this name in mind, because once he comes to the NBA, he will become Chris Paul to Enes Kanter’s Deron Williams. Valanciunas was taken fifth (two places after Kanter) in last year’s draft, and fans were already indulging in “who’s better” and “which team made the right pick” debates during EuroBasket.
Last month, BallinEurope did a piece about how Euroleague had banned the performance of national anthems before games, but that the fans of Lithuanian team Zalgiris weren’t taking it lying down and were singing their anthem a capella at games before tipoff.
This wasn’t a Euroleague game, but Lietuvos Rytas is also a Lithuanian team and the fans did the same. It was pretty darn cool. The crowd started singing during warmup drills, and players on both teams respectfully stopped what they were doing and stood in place until they were done.
Valanciunas was dominating early and CSKA was down 13-4 when Andrei checked in at 4:07 in the 1st. He immediately assisted Milos Teodosic on a 3 and stole the ball on the other end.
CKSA closed the quarter on an 11-2 run, and there was one play where AK saved the ball while leaping out of bounds by bouncing it off of a Lietuvos player’s junk.
The 11-2 run became a 22-4 run in the 2nd quarter. During timeouts, you could hear Lietuvos’ coach yelling about “Kirilenko.” CSKA broke the game wide open in the 3rd, outscoring Lietuvos 33-19, and won 84-67.
AK’s line: 13 points (team-high) on 5-5 shooting, 6 rebounds (team-high), 3 assists, 3 steals (game-high), and +/- of +23 (co-game high).
P.S. Valanciunas for whatever reason really likes to go into almost a fetal position after dunking.
Saw him doing this at Eurobasket too, which made for some not-great camera angles.
An account of after the game from Redstar (Google Translated):
In Krasnoyarsk, immediately after the match Andrei Kirilenko hit the tight ring of admirers of his talent. All asked for his autograph, sought to be photographed with him. However, Andrew, referring to rebyatne, said that he needed the locker room, the team and promised to return after 5 minutes. I admit, even I do not believe it, so how many times had become a witness of how our megastar, under any pretext at first hidden in a locker room, and then move in an environment of the bus.
As it was nice to realize that I was wrong this time: after 5 minutes of basketball fans out not only Kirilenko, but Vorontsevich, Kaun, and had not played in this match and Sokolov Teodosich. As a result, thirty minute contact Andrew and company handed over hundreds of autographs.
“But how could I deny these guys?” Admitted the AK-47. “Yes, maybe, some of which are only for this came from. Not for nothing do I have to sign the photographs with my image at various clippings from magazines. It is very warm atmosphere. And when the trains announced, and when I scored, many fans applauded. Nice to play in such an environment.”
Second game of the week was a PBL home game against Spartak St. Petersburg, i.e. AK’s first pro team and deliverer of one of CSKA’s two losses this season.
AK was back to starting in this one, and the first three quarters were really tight. Neither team was able to pull away or make a run, and the lead was rarely ever more than 5. With CSKA’s lead at 4 after 3, it was take-over time for AK. He scored 12 in the final period, including a trey from 2-3 feet behind the arc to give CSKA a 14-point lead with 1:27 left.
AK’s line: 23 points (game-high) on 8 shots, 10 rebounds (game-high), 2 assists, 2 blocks (game-high), and 7 fouls drawn (game-high; 1/4 of all of CSKA’s fouls drawn) in 31:24 (game-high). CSKA won 91-79.
AK was also interviewed this past week about why he chose to stay with CSKA this season. Apart from not wanting to let his teammates and coaches down, he said that he really wants to go to the Olympics this summer. Russia doesn’t have an automatic berth, so it’ll have to play in a qualifying tournament. If AK had returned to the NBA and his team went to the Playoffs, he wouldn’t be able to attend the full training camp for the national team. Also, four of his CSKA teammates as well as the assistant coach are also part of the national team. Andrei further revealed that that he had two NBA offers on the table at the time he decided to stay with CSKA.