When the Brooklyn Nets ran the promo on their official website for this upcoming season, there was one player who accompanied Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry on the site’s front page. But when Garnett, Pierce and Terry were introduced July 18 at Barclays Center, this one player wasn’t in attendance. And really, he hasn’t been talked about much at all, aside from refuting claims that his signing with Brooklyn accompanied with it some shady business with fellow Russian and Net owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
If you can’t guess who that player is by now, it’s Andrei Kirilenko, a piece to this new Net puzzle that has flown under the radar this summer. As it turns out, he could be the key to the Nets bench this season.
The 32-year-old Kirilenko has never been known as a scorer, that’s why the guy to provide that scoring punch off of the bench is Jason Terry. What Kirilenko can do, however, is pretty much everything else.
Known throughout his career for his versatility, he is a guy who can rebound, block shots, put points up when need be, pass the ball, and play terrific one on one defense. He is a long 6 foot 9, and will be tasked with defending the Eastern Conference’s best scorers, guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George.
His prime days have since past him by – he’s no longer averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds of 3 blocks – but with this team, he doesn’t have to do that. If he can come in and spell the likes of Pierce and Joe Johnson, and provide the team with what he brings to the table – which will even include starting some nights – he will be a major help to this roster.
Kirilenko also has previous familiarity with point guard Deron Williams – from their days playing together in Utah – which only helps matters. AK47 runs the floor extremely well, which will be a huge plus when the Nets want to push the pace when they have their more athletic lineups on the floor, with likely Williams running the break. He also brings really good passing to the table, something that the Nets now have an abundance of in their front court with Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche.
Kirilenko could start on the majority of teams in the league. His skill set is rare, a do-it-all player who can play multiple positions (think Shawn Marion).
Garnett labeled the signing as “huge” when he spoke after his introductory press conference, and the Nets got him on the cheap too, for $3 million which is $7 million less than he made last year with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Russian came to Brooklyn at a discounted price, but the production the Nets get on the court from their Mr. Versatility – and impact he has coming off the bench – should be anything but what you’d expect from a discounted salary player.