Andrei Kirilenko, Where Have You Been?
February 3, 2010 -
I thought we’d never see you again. That guy who looks like you – the one who has been wearing your uniform and cashing your enormous paychecks for the past few seasons – had really worn out his welcome. I was getting sick of his antics. It’s not that he did anything blatantly wrong; he just wasn’t the guy who earned a max contract extension five years ago. Not even close. He didn’t play with the same energy, passion, or plain joy that you did before you disappeared.
Anyway, I don’t know where you’ve been hiding out since 2006, but it sure is nice to have you back.
With tonight’s victory over Portland, the Jazz have now won 11 of their previous 12 games, and Kirilenko’s play is probably the single-biggest reason why. Over that stretch he averaged 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1.5 blocks while shooting an impressively efficient 62% from the field. It’s been a while since he has put up numbers like that for any consistent period of time.
But AK has been even more impressive in the last 7 games (all Jazz victories), during which he averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and shot an absolutely ridiculous 72% from the field. He’s also back to doing a bunch of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet (deflections, altered shots, etc) but make the Jazz a much more difficult team to beat.
Perhaps most importantly, he looks like he’s having fun out there. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that from him, and it’s a welcomed sight.
Not too many weeks ago, I was just about ready to give up on this season. The Jazz were underachieving, and they honestly weren’t much fun to watch. I’m not quite sure what got Kirilenko and the rest of the team back on track, but I sure hope they can stay there.
Welcome back, Andrei. Please stick around this time.