Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow: Week of 4/2 and 4/9
Only one game the week of 4/2 because Wednesday was reserved for a potential Game 5 in the Euroleague Quarterfinals.
On Thursday, AK was announced as the 2011-2012 MVP of the VTB League. The MVP is chosen based on four factors: fan vote, [statistical] performance rating, monthly awards won, and League expert and media vote. Coming in second and third were, respectively, Khimki’s Kresimir Loncar and Lietuvas Rytas’ (and future Raptor) Jonas Valanciunas.
Valanciunas took the fan vote (AK came in third) and Loncar had the highest efficiency rating (AK ranked fourth), but AK won the League expert and media vote and had the highest total score due to having made four of five monthly All-League teams.
On the back of AK’s 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, CSKA closed the season with the best record in league. By virtue of finishing first, CSKA gets an automatic berth in the Final Four.
During an interview after the announcement, AK had this to say:
This year there is a situation that I was not interested in what tournament we play, at what stage … Just go out on the site and enjoying every minute carried out on the dance floor. Perhaps this age. At the same time I feel a great responsibility for the results of CSKA. We have to win every game – regardless of the strength of the opponent, the match status and other factors. So I do not separate games and tournaments and not very important. The same applies to the individual titles. Any recognition of the merit good. (Sport Express)
He also said that while playing two games per week is nice, the fans in Salt Lake City made the NBA’s heavier schedule easier to take.
Sole game of the week, a sell-out, was on Sunday at Spartak St. Petersburg. Despite having said a few weeks ago that he can’t play AK the entire game, CSKA Coach Jonas Kazlauskas had him on the floor the entire first half. AK responded with 14 points on 5-7 shooting (4-5 from the line), 5 boards, 1 assist and 1 steal. At halftime, CSKA led 45-38.
This game proceeded to become a “substitution watch” similar to Jazz at Hawks in overtime. AK started the second half, and was on the floor the entire third. Midway through the 4th, at which point AK still hadn’t come out of the game yet, Kazlauskas made 7 substitutions in a 30-second span. None of them were for AK.
Kazlauskas made 20 total substitutions in the 4th; the last one, which took place with 25 seconds remaining in the game, was AK coming out of the game for the first time since tip-off.
His line at the end of the night: 27 points (8-11, 11-12 on FTs), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 7 fouls drawn. CSKA won 88-78.
After the game, AK revealed that he wasn’t even sure before the game whether he would play due to back pain. Therefore, he remained standing during timeouts and at halftime during the entire game.
Asked about AK’s playing time, Kazlauskas mentioned that many fans attended the game specifically to see AK (St. Petersburg is his hometown)* and that given his back issues, he was afraid if AK sat he wouldn’t be able to get up again.
*Another one of CSKA’s players, Anton Ponkrashov, is also a St. Petersburg native. When asked why Ponkrashov didn’t play, Kazlauskas said he wanted to spread the minutes around and that he can’t play Ponkrashov just because he’s from St. Petersburg. “This is not a kindergarten!”
No games were scheduled for the week of 4/9. CSKA’s Euroleague and VTB United League regular seasons are over, and it won’t play again in either league until May (both Final 4s). It has three games remaining in the regular season of the PBL, which will be played in the next two weeks.