Kirilenko: ‘I’m running like a young deer’

Slashing to the rim, blocking shots and getting out in

transition in Russia’s first game of the Olympics, Andrei Kirilenko

looked every bit the all-around force he was as a young man with

the Utah Jazz.

”I feel great,” Kirilenko said after scoring 35 points on

14-for-17 shooting against Britain on Sunday. ”Look at me. I’m

running like a young deer.”

The only people happier with his performance than the Russians

had to be the Minnesota Timberwolves. After skipping last season to

play in his native Moscow, Kirilenko signed a two-year, $20 million

contract with the Wolves on Friday.

Kirilenko will be bringing Russian teammate Alexey Shved with

him to the Timberwolves next season. Shved had 16 points and 13

assists against overmatched Britain.

”If I’m the Minnesota Timberwolves, I have a big, fat smile on

my face,” Russian coach David Blatt said.

Speaking to American media for the first time since signing his

deal, Kirilenko said he felt refreshed after deciding to stay home

during the grueling NBA season that was compacted by the lockout.

He played last season with CSKA Moscow, and appears to have an

extra bounce in his step after slowing down in the last of his 10

seasons in Utah.

”Last season in CSKA, I feel comfortable, I feel great at

home,” Kirilenko said. ”I feel I should play at the highest level

possible. If I’m not going back to NBA, I would probably feel sorry

for myself over the next four or five years. I got a call and it

was a very, very interesting offer.”

Kirilenko likened the Timberwolves to Rick Adelman’s Sacramento

Kings teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, a free-wheeling

group with plenty of Europeans like Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac

playing prominent roles.

”For me, it looks like European flavor on the team,” said

Kirilenko, referring to Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, himself and

Shved. ”For me right now, it’s pretty much the same type of

team-building. A lot of European guys, a lot of guys who can run

the floor. Alexey is another big, big plus.”

Shved is a versatile combo guard who dominated the pace of play

on Sunday, finding Kirilenko time and again for lob passes and

backdoor cuts.

”I said prepare right now for Minnesota, that’s how you’re

going to find me,” Kirilenko said. ”I think he’s doing a good

job. Last year we played together. We’ve got connection. He knows

when I’m going to cut. I know when he going to start driving so I

give him space. But we have to adjust to Rick’s system

anyway.”

Having his Russian teammate, who has extensive experience in the

NBA, with him in Minnesota for his first season should help ease

Shved’s transition to a new league and a new home.

”It’s very nice for me because my first year he can help me,”

Shved said. ”It’s different, not like Europe.”

Kirilenko loved living at home and playing in front of friends

and family every night in Moscow. But the chance to play with

Rubio, Kevin Love and under Adelman – and that big pile of money –

was too much to pass up.

”It’s a great team (they’re) creating,” Kirilenko said.

”Kevin has really started to turn into a superstar this year. Last

year, a lot of my friends were watching the games, especially

Minnesota and how they play. It’s very, very energetic and

nice.”

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