|Kirilenko wants to be a better dad. (Getty Images)|
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko has had a resurgence in his career since making the decision to leave the NBA during the 2011 lockout and return to Russia to play basketball. He was recently named the 2012 FIBA Europe Men's Player of the Year and won the La Gazzetta dello Sport EuroPlayer 2012 award for his play with CSKA Moscow and the Russian national team.
The break from the NBA recharged his battery and gave him plenty of energy and motivation to revive his NBA career this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, you probably shouldn't expect to see him with the Russian national team in a playing capacity anytime soon. Via the Star Tribune:
And on stepping away from the Russian national team after leading it to an Olympic bronze medal last summer in London…
“It's not connected to playing time, I'm not tired, I'm not tired of playing for the national team,” he said. “I want to be a better dad. I want to be with my family a little more. I think I already give a lot, play 12 years on the national team. There is time.”
He said he has thought about this decision for the last two, three years but got serious about making it after the Olympics.
“I was thinking in summertime I don't have enough time with my kids,” he said. “My wife and kids, I want to be around them. I don't want to be dad who's spending two hours and then you don't see your kids. It's a hard decision."
Kirilenko helped the Russians earn the bronze at the 2012 London Olympics by leading them to a 6-2 record and an 81-77 bronze-medal victory over Argentina. It was Russia's first men's basketball medal since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Russian basketball federation president has extended an open invitation to Kirilenko and asked him to remain open to the idea of returning for more play with the national team down the road, but Kirilenko seems pretty sure that this will be it for him. He wants to make way for the "Shved generation" of Russian players, much like the Sabonis generation made way for Kirilenko's generation.
As for his place with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kirilenko is happy with everything going on with the team -- outside of the results on the court.
“When I signed the contract with agent, we wanted to have all kinds of options,” he said. “I didn't know what I was stepping into when I start the season. I heard a lot of good stuff, but you're always a little bit worried how it's going to go. So far, it's going great. I like Rick's system. We have a lot of injuries. The result is a little bit not what you expect, but we're working on it.
“So far, I like everything here except the results. We need to try to fix it. In the summertime, I will sit with my agent, my family and look at it.”
This summer, Kirilenko will have a $10.2 million player option that he can exercise to remain with the team next season, or he can decline it and become a restricted free agent at a time when quite a few teams will have copious amounts of cap room to spend. And with his improved play and resurgence this season, he would be in high demand.
Kirilenko is averaging 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the field. He has a true shooting percentage of 59.8 percent and a PER of 18.2. He has also been one of the top defensive players in the league throughout most of the season.