Posted by: Jefferson Trimble on October 19th, 2010The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
After agonizing over how to show my die hard allegiance to the Jazz to you all, I came to a conclusion, we’re all jazz fans here. If you’re reading this blog or writing one, you are not an average Jazz fan. I could tell you about how I was there last year when Sundiata hit the most amazing shot I’ve ever seen. I could tell you about how I was devastated after watching Wesley miss the tip in at the end of last season. I can tell you all the games I’ve been to or watched, how I bought a Slingbox just so I could watch the Jazz games at work. I could tell you all that, but why? We’re all Jazz fans here. We all have those experiences and we all have our own perspective. I felt that the best thing that I could do would be to show you an example of why I should be a Jazzbot. So I wrote an article that stems from hours of debate with co-workers, friends, really anyone who would listen. If I become a Jazzbot I hope to write articles that encourage discussion and debate. Here’s a little taste, hope you enjoy.
Was Andrei Worth It?
By: Jefferson Trimble
Take a moment to reflect on your feelings about Andrei Kirilenko. Whenever I consider my opinion of Andrei I always think “was Andrei worth the max contract?” For me, the answer to this comes down to two interpretations of the question: “Was he worth the money at the time the contract was signed?” and “Has he played like a max contract player over the term of the contract?”
Was he worth the money at the time the contract was signed?
In the ’03-’04 season Andrei lead the team in per game points, rebounds, steals, and blocks and led the Jazz to a very unexpected 42-40 record. He made the All-Star team, was voted to the NBA defensive second team, and received 13 votes for league MVP. In ’04-’05 he again led the Jazz in per game points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He led the league in blocks per game; no Small Forward, Shooting Guard, or Point Guard has even been in the top ten of blocks per game in the past 27 years (Julius Erving, ’83-’84, 8th).
At the end of the 2004-2005 season, every Jazz fan was calling for Andrei to be resigned immediately no matter the cost. Based on the numbers, AK looked to be a once in a lifetime player, someone who can be the best offensive and defensive player on a team. The fans knew it, the Jazz brass knew it, and the other teams in the league knew it. The Jazz had to sign Andrei, and in doing so made the right decision giving him a max contract in 2004-2005.
Has he played like a max contract player over the term of the contract?
Most Jazz fans will answer this question with an emphatic, “No.” The reasons being that he hasn’t been healthy and hasn’t been productive.
During Andrei’s max contract, he has played in 82% of the Jazz regular season games. This means that he has missed the equivalent of one of the five seasons of his contract due to injury. Even though the injuries are not his fault, it is hard to consider a player “worth the money” when he isn’t on the floor one out of every five games.
Andrei’s production is a different matter. There have been moments of brilliance, bewilderment, and bawling when we think of Andrei’s production over the past five years. When he is motivated, Andrei can pack a stat sheet like no one else. When he’s not he goes through the motions without the needed defensive intensity. Unfortunately, the numbers lead me to believe that the latter has been exhibited more frequently. Andrei has seen a decline in every statistical category since the signing of the contract. In 2005-2006, Andrei led the league with 220 blocks in 69 games. In the 2008-2009 season Andrei had a dismal 77 blocks in 67 games.
Was Andrei worth the max contract?
After debating the two questions over the past few years my opinion is that Andrei is worth the contact. First, one cannot dismiss the fact that Andrei was worth the contract at the time we signed him. Had the Jazz not signed him to a max contract, another team would have. Jazz fans need to remember how devastating the thought of Andrei playing elsewhere felt in 2005. Second, some of Andrei’s drop in production can be attributed to the fact that the Jazz roster, philosophy, and Andrei’s role all changed significantly with the arrival of Deron, Carlos, and Memo. Andrei went from being the go to guy to the teams fourth option within two years of signing the contract.
Finally, when I reflect on my feelings towards Andrei. I have felt euphoric when Andrei won us games with his shot and with his shot blocking skills (ask Chauncey Billups). I have felt proud when he posted a 5X5. I felt comforted when Andrei apologized to a small group of season ticket holders and took responsibility for a tough loss to a bad team. I felt excited when Andrei lead a group of no names through one of the most rewarding Jazz seasons. To me Andrei is a Jazz-Man; I hope to never have to feel the pain of seeing him play in an opponent’s jersey.
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