Homecoming: Kirilenko returns to Utah
- Blog Post by: Jerry Zgoda
- January 2, 2013 - 2:23 PM
The Timberwolves have come and gone from morning shootaround at EnergySolutions Arena here in Salt Lake City and Andrei Kirilenko avoided stepping foot in the visitor's locker room in his first visit back after playing 10 years for the Jazz.
"I haven't been in there, I'm afraid to go in," he said. "I didn't even know where the guest locker room is. And now I know."
The Jazz drafted him 24th overall in 1999 and developed a relatively unknown Russian into an All Star and then massively paid him like one with an $86 million contract once upon a time.
"I mean, I had a great 10 years here," he said. "I feel like I know every fan for the first 10 rows. It's going to be fun. It's doing to be a very strange feeling, but I guess that's the basketball life...I feel special when I step in EnergySolutions Arena and see all the staff that worked here for 10 years and I know them by name, every one of them. They're happy to see you and I've very happen to see them. That's special.
"I grew up here as an NBA player, coming into the league 19, 20 years old, become an All Star and get the majority of my career here. There are tons of great moments here. There is no one moment. It's part of my life here.
"I was thinking, `How many games I play here? 500, 400 games here? That's a lot and every game is special.. You really feel special when you play for 10 years for the same team. It's a great feeling."
He said likely will be both cheered and booed by Utah fans when he is introduced tonight.
"I've always been a fan of remembers as a good person rather than just a good player," Kirilenko said. "I think if the people remember you as a good personality, I think it goes a long way rather than just a good player but being a jackass or whatever."
He still has a house in Salt Lake City and his wife, Masha, will be here tonight.
"It looks like a little bit lonely, but it's life," he said about visiting his house on Tuesday. "We're always trying to do the best thing for your family, for yourself, so..."
One other thing:
* Newly signed Lazar Hayward said his two practices with the team have prepared him to play as much as Rick Adelman needs him tonight, what with Ricky Rubio home in Minnesota because of those back spasms and the Wolves down to just three healthy guards again.
Adelman likes to scrimmage a lot in his practice, and Hayward called that approach just right these last two days.
"That's exactly what I need for these guys to get comfortable with me and see how I play a little bit," Hayward said. "I'm definitely ready. I'm just waiting, hoping Coach gives me a good opportunity to give what the team needs."
Adelman says he'll play Hayward some at shooting guard out of necessity, and Hayward says he is willing and able.
"I played it a little bit in Oklahoma City when I got in the game, so I'm familiar with it," he said. "It's not anything I can't do. It's just guarding it, that's all, just guarding smaller guys. Defense, rebounding, hitting open shots, whatever the team needs, I'll be that."
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