Andrei Kirilenko made his return to EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday, going through a light shoot around with the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves before facing the media. The Russian small forward spent 10 seasons with the Jazz and at 7 p.m. will become the longest-tenured Jazz player to return to Salt Lake City with a different team.
Steve Luhm wrote a nice story today in The Tribune in which Kirilenko said it would be strange to step into the arena and head toward the visitors' locker room.
The Jazz on Wednesday and before Tuesday's practice weighed in on AK's return:
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
On Kirilenko's time with the Jazz | "Tremendous guy, first of all. Really, really good teammate. He ahd a great run here with us. The guys really seemed to enjoy having him here on the team. Really enjoyed coaching him."
What will it be like to coach against him? | "We wish him well, he's on a different team now but it will be good to see him back on the floor. ... Just from what I've seen him on film, he's still playing the three spot. He's looking to pass the ball. ... He's all over the board numbers-wise, which is who he is. He's a versatile player that's looking to pass before score. He's very active at times and when he's playing that way he still affects the game in different ways."
Jazz forward Paul Millsap
On five years as Kirilenko's teammate | "He's actually a great teammate, he's a good teammate on the floor, off the floor. On the floor he was very unselfish. We all know what kind of player he was on the court. Off the court, even though he was always having fun, joking around, you can't really see that when you see him, that's who he is. ... Reading those goofy books, always reading."
Jazz forward Marvin Williams
What he learned in years of playing against Kirilenko | "Very, very good player. I actually really like his game. I used to watch him play when he was here, the things that he was able to do with this system, he was really able to help this Jazz team win a lot of games."
On who Kirilenko plays like | "The only other player I've seen do something like that is Josh Smith. I played with Josh and he'es got the ability to impact the gam offensively and defensively. He can pass it, he can affect it on the defensive end, he can block shots, he can score. It's definitely not going to be an easy defensive task for whoever's matched up on him. "
Jazz center Al Jefferson
On Kirilenko's return | "Just being a fan of basketball it is a little weird to see him playing with somebody beside Utah."
Jazz guard Gordon Hayward
Why Kirilenko is effective | "He can go for big numbers and it's different because he's a big man who really likes to space the floor. He almost acts like a guard sometimes, but then he can get 20-plus rebounds a night. Like I said, we're all going to have to be conscious of that and where he's at and not [allowing him to get] any good looks early so he can get going."
On Kirilenko's best attribute | "I think he's a tremendous passer. I think that's one of his best parts of his game, I think. He knows the game well and if you turn your head for an instant he'll hit the guy you're guarding for an easy layup."
— Bill Oram