AK-47 era in Utah appears to have ended quietly

It appears the Andrei Kirilenko era in Utah has ended. It went out quietly this week as the Jazz announced they’d signed free agent small forward Josh Howard to a one-year contract.

Kirilenko, who played for the Jazz from 2001 through 2011, is an unrestricted free agent and may sign with any team.

The Jazz had interest in re-signing the 6-foot-9 Russian, but opted to take a chance on Howard instead.

AK-47 is reportedly drawing interest from the Sacramento Kings and New Jersey Nets, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Currently, Kirilenko is in Russia, playing for CSKA (Moscow).

Recently, Sacramento president of player operations Geoff Petrie was quoted in the Sacramento Bee newspaper saying, “(Kirilenko is) still in Russia and he’s playing for CSKA (Moscow) and he’s under contract over there. He’s in a little bit of a different place in that he’s making a significant amount of money right now and when and if he chooses to come back to the NBA at this point we’d still be more than interested in talking to him. But it’s still from what I can tell in a holding pattern.”

When asked Friday about Kirilenko, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor offered a “no comment.”

“AK’s always been fun to play with, he’s a good friend of mine,” Jazzman Mehmet Okur said. “He’s a good player. It’s business. It’s tough to feel like he’s not coming back. You just try to get used to it.”

Okur and Kirilenko were good friends during this time together in Utah, but Memo said Friday they have not spoken in some time.  He offered no indication that he knew what Kirilenko’s future plans might hold.

Kirilenko’s agent has said his client would entertain offers from NBA teams, but felt no overwhelming need to leave Russia, where his children are enrolled in school.




About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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