Report: Kirilenko 'ready' to leave NBA, $63M contract

Updated: September 21, 2007, 6:56 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Andrei Kirilenko is so prepared to leave the Utah Jazz, he's willing to forsake the remaining $63 million of his contract to play overseas.

Andrei Kirilenko

Kirilenko

Forward
Utah Jazz

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
70 8.3 4.7 2.9 .471 .728

According to a translation by The Salt Lake Tribune, Kirilenko said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Sport Express that he is prepared to go without the money remaining on his NBA contract to get away from the Jazz.

Kirilenko is quoted in the Russian newspaper as saying: "I just want to explain to everybody what I think and feel and that I could sacrifice my career with the NBA. The only thing I'm not prepared for is if I'm told, 'Andrei, we want you to stay anyway.' I'm sure then the next season would be a repetition of the previous one, and what will the fans say then? How could you possibly rely on a player who wants to leave?"

Kirilenko, who is under contract through the 2010-11 season, told Sport Express he thinks the chances of his contract being voided are small. But he remains steadfast in his desire to leave Utah, even if it means playing on a worse team, NBA or otherwise. He told the newspaper he is unhappy playing in the structured system run by coach Jerry Sloan.

"I have never been unfair and I don't want to enjoy something that I don't deserve," Kirilenko told Sport Express. "Big money is obviously good, but I am prepared to make less. The size of my salary doesn't mean that much for me. The main thing is to play with a spark."

"For the past two years I've been going on the court and acting like a robot. When I signed my contract the future looked completely different -- I thought I would play, win and get pleasure from it. Unfortunately, this is out of the question now -- even in successful games. This is the worst feeling."

Trust me, I really am prepared to leave NBA. It certainly does not mean that I'm dying to go to Europe. I'm just ready.

-- Andrei Kirilenko

He says he would like to play in Russia, although as long as he is under contract with Utah, that cannot happen as NBA and FIBA teams must honor each other's contracts. Kirilenko starred for CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague before coming to the NBA, but he says he'd also consider other European teams.

"I would like to be where I am needed and right now I feel that my country needs me," Kirilenko told Sport Express. "But I cannot exclude some European clubs. Trust me, I really am prepared to leave NBA. It certainly does not mean that I'm dying to go to Europe. I'm just ready."

Kirilenko could face a fine or suspension by the Jazz if he fails to report to camp on Oct. 1.

He contrasted his displeasure with Sloan with the experience he had with Russian coach David Blatt during the recent European Basketball Tournament. Russia won the tournament and Kirilenko was named MVP.

"Last year, we had a conversation with him," Kirilenko told Sport Express "and Sloan said, 'Andrei, if you don't like something about the way I conduct training you could always break the contract with the Jazz.' So that's exactly what I want to do now!"

Kirilenko doesn't want to lose another year or two playing for Sloan and told Sport Express he talked with Jazz owner Larry Miller while he was in Spain for the European Basketball Tournament.

"It seems like Larry understood me," Kirilenko said. "But he will make the final decision himself, obviously."

But Miller, who is openly critical when he's not happy with a player, has not commented on Kirilenko's request.

Unless Kirilenko and agent Marc Fleisher, who did not return messages seeking comment Friday, can work out a buyout or persuade the Jazz to trade him, Kirilenko's only options will be to sit out or return for a seventh season in Utah.

"Anyway, while my contract with the Jazz is in place, I don't have the right to negotiate," Kirilenko said. "I think there will be offers. But it's meaningless to talk about that now."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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