There's no like home and Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow knows that sentiment well. After spending 10 years with Utah Jazz, Kirilenko is back in Russia at the age of 30, where he helps his homeland team get back on top.
So far, Kirilenko should be more than happy of his decision - CSKA is the only undefeated Euroleague team with 12-0 record, while Kirilenko, who is averaging 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 blocks, is head-and-shoulders above other Euroleague MVP candidates.
Kirilenko sat down with RealGM to talk about Russia, CSKA, the NBA lockout, Utah and much more.
On coming back to Russia and playing for the team of Kirilenko’s home country:
“I was put in very unique situation with the NBA lockout. I had a chance to play in front of the Russian fans and play for a team with which I started my career. It is very nice to get back and play for my fans, family and friends who haven't seen me play since the start of my career. Right now, being a 10-year veteran, having good experience in American basketball, coming back to play when I am not too old and retired, but when I am in great shape. It is really great.”
On his decision to not come back to the NBA but stay in Europe for the whole season:
“When the lockout was over, I had an option in my contract that I can leave and go back to the NBA. I was thinking a lot about that. The main thing is that we already did so much work with my teammates. You can’t leave halfway when you put a lot of work and effort. The other thing is that NBA season is very messy this year. Teams had only two weeks to prepare and the season is very intensive. To get to an NBA team and to start all over again, it is very uncomfortable. I think I should do it in the summertime when I will have enough time to prepare myself and my family for moving back to the States. I decided to take those 12 months to prepare and come back to the NBA in the summertime. Also, the London Olympics qualification tournament will take place this summer, it is another factor that I want to be in Russia with Russian players so we could do something for this year. Move to the tournament with great understanding. 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 sentiments for the Jazz organization:
“Definitely, I feel sentiments to the Jazz. There are many memories and I still keep in touch with them, watch the results and cheer for the Jazz. I have many great friends there, including the head coach, who was not a head coach at that time. 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. A lot of guys are still there. 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.”
On getting an American passport:
“Getting an American passport has not changed my life at all. It helps me with the traveling. I was born in Russia and I am a Russian. Right now, I am spending most of the time in Russia because I am playing here. I went back to the U.S. for few days because of the paperwork. It is not like I am looking forward to come back [to the U.S.], but if I have time, why not.”