Russian National Team leader, Euroleague MVP Andrey Kirilenko decided to use the contract option to get back to the NBA. Today CSKA and the Timberwolves finalized the deal which sends the forward to Minneapolis.
Last fall Kirilenko signed 3-year agreement with CSKA after 10 seasons with the Utah Jazz. The contract allowed him to leave to the NBA before any regular championship but he did not move to America for the shortened 2011-12 season. AK-47 has become the brightest star of European season winning two main individual titles of continental basketball – the Euroleague’s MVP and Best Defender. Besides, Andrey was named the 2011-12 Euroleague October MVP, the 2011-12 Euroleague Week 1, Week 5, Playoffs Game 2 and Game 4 MVP, named the 2011-12 VTB United League Regular Season MVP and Final Four MVP, named to the 2011-12 Euroleague and BEKO PBL First Teams.
Kirilenko’s last season stats: 17 games, 14.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.9 blocked shots, 29.9 minutes in Euroleague; 11 games, 11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocked shots, 26.2 minutes in VTB United League; 15 points, 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocked shots, 22.3 minutes in BEKO PBL.
Andrey Vatutin, CSKA President:
When we just signed the contract I said that I will be happy even if he plays just several games in our team’s uniform. In the end Kirilenko spent the full season with CSKA and I am happy – the dream came true not only for me but for all CSKA and other Russian team fans who got the chance to see AK-47 playing in front of them. And I would like to thank Norilsk Nickel management which supported an idea to invite him to our team a year ago. Definitely we would like Andrey to stay, that would benefit CSKA and whole European basketball. He has become the example for everyone – teammates, staff, he demonstrated dedication, professional approach. Thanks to Kirilenko we saw the growth of interest to basketball in Russia: the arenas were sold out in every city we have visited. We understand perfectly that Kirilenko is a top-player, he has to play on the highest level possible. And the highest level is in the NBA. And our respect towards him will stay the same even after he decided to leave. At the same time I am happy that Andrey chose Minnesota: that means that the other our representative, Alexey Shved, will have a good friend who can help him and teach him. I would like to thank Andrey once again for the tremendous season and sincerely wish him good health, god luck and to reach the height he hasn’t reach yet in the NBA.
I am grateful to CSKA for the last season and the year I spent with the team before going to America. That was not an easy decision because I liked it here, I felt comfortable, and we have had great atmosphere in the locker room. I was lucky to play in my native country being healthy and in good shape, top please my friends and relatives, all the Russian fans. At the same time I noted previously that I would like to play on the highest level. I feel that I have enough strength and confidence to continue my career in the NBA. I did not want to let CSKA and Andrey Vatutin personally down when the transfer market is still hot. Sincerely wish good luck to the army men and the fans, CSKA successes will always be very important for me.