The Dude of “The Big Lebowski” fame knew how to make a white Russian disappear, but that offers no help as far as the Philadelphia 76ers are concerned in their desire to have veteran NBA forward Andrei Kirilenko report for duty.
Kirilenko, acquired by the Sixers on Dec. 11, has been on leave for “personal reasons” reportedly related to a family member’s medical situation. But the team’s intent in swinging the deal with the Brooklyn Nets was that the 33-year-old would join their squad, work his way into the rotation and play well enough that he might attract some bids from contending teams prior to the league’s February trading deadline.
So at some point, Kirilenko is going to be AWOL. For now, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford just had some fun in putting out an APB on AK-47. Because, after all, one has to take fun where one finds it around the Sixers these days:
I am looking for Andrei Kirilenko, but he is hard to find. This should not be the case because Kirilenko is a 6-foot-9 Russian. He should either be on a basketball court or in a James Bond movie. I have searched the basketball courts and movie theaters. No Kirilenko.
The 76ers are not helping at all. They traded for Kirilenko this month and I see his smiling face on the roster page of their website. The blue and red of the team colors have been drawn onto the uniform top he is wearing in the photo. Kirilenko is number 47, as he has always been during his 13 seasons in the NBA. That’s part of his “AK-47″ nickname, which someone came up with in reference to the Kalashnikov rifle, although at this point of his career Kirilenko isn’t even a pop gun.
This season, he played 37 minutes spread over seven games for the Nets, took five shots from the field and didn’t make any of them. Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins had no further use for him and general manager Billy King, whose team is trying to get out of luxury tax jail, looked desperately for someone to take Kirilenko’s $3,326,235 salary off his books. Hello, Sixers.
The nuts-and-bolts of the situation are getting a little dicey, however, given the loggerheads at which the brief relationship between the player and his new team appears to be. As Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday:
For now, Kirilenko and his representatives are resisting the Sixers’ overtures, preferring the organization waive Kirilenko and let him become a free agent, sources said.
After Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Nets completed a trade for Kirilenko on Dec. 11, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has repeatedly expressed to Kirilenko’s camp that there are no immediate plans to cut him loose, league sources said.
Kirilenko, 33, wants the balance of the $3.3 million owed to him this season, and ultimately the freedom to sign elsewhere on a new deal this season, sources said. So far, he’s been unwilling to join the rebuilding Sixers, but eventually could be mandated to report to the team to collect on his contract.
Seeing has how Kirilenko cost himself serious money in the NBA marketplace prior to 2013-14 – when he turned down a $10 million player option with Minnesota to sign with the Mikhail Prokhorov-owned Nets on a two-year, $7.4 million deal – this could be about the dough. As in, Kirilenko might not be willing to negotiate down for a buyout, considering what he’s lost already on his Brooklyn gamble.
It’s hard to know what Kirilenko has left. He didn’t play for the Nets for a month before the trade, appearing in just seven of their first 20 games, so he pretty much has maintained his pace with the Sixers (0-for-5 possible games).
There’s always the possibility that the trade came at a particularly bad time, synching up unknowingly with the one time a year his wife Masha Lopatova allows him to stray beyond the vows of their marriage. Still, even if she lets him test the waters of personal free-agency, Kirilenko won’t have that freedom from Philadelphia until next summer.