The Brooklyn Nets have had famous Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov for a few years now, but without a Russian player they never got crazy attention over in Russia. However, with perhaps the best Russian-born player in history on the team in Andrei Kirilenko, they are finally being embraced there.
“During the days I was in Russia there was a lot of talk,” Kirilenko said. “I think the Brooklyn Nets have become the home team in Russia. All of my friends ask me about it and told me that they are going to change their priorities and root for Brooklyn.
“There is a large group of Russians in Brooklyn and they are very excited. I think it’s important for Brooklyn to start growing the global brand instead of just be an American team. The game of basketball right now is expanding. There is a lot of interest in basketball around the world and I think the Brooklyn Nets are doing a great thing trying to take advantage of that.”
It’s hard not to believe him when walking around the streets of southern Brooklyn where you are just as likely to see Kirilenko’s No. 47 t-shirt as you are a Deron Williams or a Joe Johnson shirt combined. Kirilenko explained that there is just something about seeing a Russian-born player on a team for young kids to be inspired by.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me personally to be here right now and to help create interest in Russia,” he said. “Russian kids growing up right now like a lot of different stuff and they are so excited to see Russia represented in one team, in one city. Its not like 10 years ago when the NBA was heaven. Now it’s a real possibility to get here. Kids know that they won’t be skipped by scouts. At least they have a chance.”
Kirilenko also talked about joining the team which, he said, was an easy decision because of the talent around him.
“It’s a great opportunity especially with the situation around me with (Kevin Garnett), (Paul Pierce) and Jason Terry,” said Kirilenko. “I think it’s a great chance for us to fight for a championship.
“You can tell that the team is good from last year starting at the new arena. This year there are great changes and I think, on paper, this is a great opportunity. Right now all we need to do is work starting on day one. We’re going to do our best to get used to each other and create chemistry as soon as possible. We still have a long way to go though.”
• Andrei Kirilenko on Jason Kidd: “I don’t know how he is as a coach, but it’s a great tradition when a great point guard turns into a great coach. The latest example is Mark Jackson. I think Jason has the same type of potential.”
“I think Jason Kidd has a great assistant in coach Frank Lawrence. I’ve seen him over the years and I think the two will be good compliments to each other. I’ve seen him over the years and I think Jason as a coach will be a great motivator. In tough moments he’ll be the guy to say ‘no, we’re not doing this, we’re doing this.’ Together they will be a great compliment as coaches.”
• On how much longer he can keep playing: “10 years ago I thought by 30 years old I would be done. But the older you keep playing you feel like two or three more years, two ore three more years. As long as you take care of your body you can still play. Last year was a good year for me to kind of realize where I am at right now and I feel pretty good. Two or three years playing at the highest level, not just finishing my career, but playing at the highest level and contributing to the team.”
• On training camp at Duke: “I think it’s necessary because the city of New York has so much media so I think it’s good to get away from the distraction.”
• On playing with Deron Williams again: “I had a great time seven or eight years ago when Deron was drafted by the Jazz. He great up from a talented kid in the draft to one of the top five point guards in the league. I’ve been lucky to have played with so many great point guards, with the ball in their hands you don’t need to do much, just get open and he’ll find you. Deron is also a great teammate, he’s one of those guys you want to be on the same team with.”