From Russian without love: Kirilenko's tired of playing for Jazz
With the Jazz set to report to training camp in less than two weeks, Andrei Kirilenko's summer of discontent apparently came full circle Tuesday in the form of a trade demand that echoed in Russian and English.
Barely 48 hours after leading Russia to gold at the European championships in Spain, Kirilenko seemingly wrote a blog post on the Russian Web site Sport Today that he was ready to leave Utah after six seasons.
"In a week, I need to join the Utah Jazz again, but quite frankly, I'm not really happy about that," wrote Kirilenko, who was named MVP of the EuroBasket tournament. "The past season was bad for me and I was really disappointed.
"I've thought about it a lot and I came to a decision. I want to leave Utah Jazz. The European championships that just ended became sort of a test for me and now I think I know what I want to do."
Kirilenko also revealed that he talked to Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations, a few weeks ago and asked to be traded.
O'Connor said Tuesday that he had spoken with Kirilenko but declined to comment on what was said.
"What you're trying to do is overall look at the success he's had with us," O'Connor said. "He has a long-term contract with us and I don't think we would have given him a contract like that if we weren't confident he'd be here."
w=8.4 Kirilenko is required to report for camp by Oct. 1 and O'Connor said, "We explained to him when everybody was supposed to be back and we expect him to be here."
The Jazz would face sizable obstacles in trying to trade Kirilenko, their highest-paid player owed $63 million through the 2010-11 season. They also face untold distractions as they open the season trying to build off a conference finals appearance.
Of his conversation with O'Connor, Kirilenko wrote, "I told him that I don't see myself in the team and want to leave." He added: "I don't want myself and my contract to be a burden for the club. I want the club to continue in its own direction."
But Kirilenko wrote that he hadn't heard back from O'Connor or the organization in a week, which he took as a sign of disrespect.
"There's no response negative or positive and this silence is just one more evidence of the way they treat me," Kirilenko wrote. "Nevertheless, I'm really hopeful that Utah Jazz leadership will understand that our relationship is over and it's time for us to part ways."
Kirilenko drew contrasts throughout between Jerry Sloan's coaching style and that of Russian coach David Blatt. Kirilenko averaged 18 points and 8.6 rebounds at EuroBasket, reversing course after the worst season of his career with the Jazz.
While crediting Sloan with his growth as a player, Kirilenko wrote that Blatt "helped me to realize a dream." Kirilenko also took issue with Sloan for motivating players through criticism, reminding them of the millions they earn and harping on the mistakes they make.
"Right now, I feel that I'm not growing as a player," Kirilenko wrote. "I'm trying but it doesn't work. I am not allowed. I do not get support from the coach and from the club. I'm convinced that Sloan's methods have a negative impact on me."
w=8.2 Kirilenko was the Jazz's sixth-leading scorer (8.3 points) last season and took just six shots a game, half the number he averaged for Russia.
w=8.4 The 26-year-old forward broke down in tears during the Jazz's first-round playoff series and later voiced his frustration to a Russian newspaper, complaining about feeling ignored in the offense and treated like a rookie, instead of a franchise player.
Jazz owner Larry Miller and Sloan fired back, and the team hoped a summer apart would repair the relationship. At the time Sloan said, "I don't see us changing everything we do for Andrei Kirilenko. I don't see any team in the league doing that."
Trading a player with a maximum contract is complicated to say the least. The Jazz would have to approximately match player salaries in any deal, up to 125 percent plus $100,000 under NBA rules. Kirilenko will make $13.7 million this season.
In what sounded like goodbye, Kirilenko thanked Jazz fans for their support. "I have no doubt they will understand the motives that move me," he wrote.