Posted by: Danny-Hansen on June 2nd, 2010The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
I spent two years of my life living in the Russian Federation. So whenever any Russians come over to the NBA, I take an interest. Whenever a Russian comes over to the Jazz, I am extremely interested. And whenever a Russian billionaire buys an NBA franchise, I am extremely excited. So naturally, Mikhail Prokhorov and Andrei Kirilenko have caught my eye. And a possible union of the two is on my mind.
Just a little background on Russia and the NBA. This background is based on my experiences living in southwest Russia. Things may be different in other parts of the country. I started living in Russia in 2001, Andrei Kirilenko’s rookie year with the Jazz. However, my entire time in Russia I only met one person who had heard of Andrei Kirilenko. He had played for a professional team in Moscow before joining the Jazz, yet nobody knew of him. In fact, more people, though only a few, knew of Stockton and Malone. Michael Jordan, of course, was the one they would know. But other NBA teams and other players, people did not know. The reason for the disconnect between the NBA and Russians is that not everybody had a television, and hardly anybody had a computer and Internet access. Now I am sure it has changed in the 7 years I haven’t been there, but for that time span there wasn’t much of an NBA fanbase in Russia.
Funny story – while walking down the street of Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, I saw a man wearing a Sandy City Jr. Jazz jersey. Being from Sandy, I was shocked to see such a jersey halfway around the world. I approached the man to ask him where he got the jersey. His response was classic. He could have been speaking Russian or English, it didn’t matter, cause this is what he said, “Utah Jazz, Karl Malone, John Stockton.” That was enough for me.
Another thing to remember about Russians, is that they view their nationality as a brotherhood. They take pride in the accomplishments of their countrymen. They take pride in their country, as well, despite its struggles. To put it shortly, they love Russia and Russians.
Now, with all that in mind, is there a chance that Andrei Kirilenko will be a member of the New Jersey Nets? I will have to say yes. First, Prokhorov is a businessman. He probably sees the potential of growing the NBA in his own country. There is an untapped fanbase there, that would rally around a team owned by a Russian. Prokhorov may see Kirilenko as the key to selling the NBA to Russians. He can be the Russian hero in the NBA. And second, there is a friendship between the two, as countrymen and as personal friends. Andrei might want the opportunity to play for his friend. And Prokhorov may look to swing a deal for his friend.
How will Andrei Kirilenko get to the Nets, if that is their goal? The Nets may trade for him and his 17 million he his owed this season. This is unlikely, seeing how the Nets may be looking to make their splash with bigger names in free agency with their cap space. They also would be unwilling to deal any of their good young pieces for Kirilenko, such as Brook Lopez. Now the Jazz could trade Kirilenko for the Nets cap space, but it is unlikely that the Nets would use their cap space on AK47. Not this summer. The more likely possibility is that Andrei joins the Nets after his contract expires with the Jazz next season. Andrei can then join the Nets and their possible free agent pickups from this summer, for only the mid-level exception. That would make a good team.
As much as I love Kirilenko and would hate to see him go, it really feel that the universe is pushing for Prokhorov and Andrei to meet in New Jersey. And that would be a match made in Moscow.
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