AK47 Takes His Shot at Title

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Alan Anderson

Following last month's surprise acquisition of veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko, the Nets coordinated a Thursday conference call for team beat writers, offering the first opportunity to hear from Kirilenko since the deal had been inked.

The 32-year-old said that it was time to take a shot at a title, and was excited to join the Nets, a team he feels wields all the necessary pieces. Kirilenko expects this to be a tremendous year, and he's looking forward to starting the season, especially since he'll be performing for Brooklyn's healthy Russian population.

Here are the highlights from Kirilenko's 23-minute chat, which covered his decision to opt out and eventually sign with the Nets, his relationship with owner Mikhail Prokhorov and how the Nets stack up in the Eastern Conference.

On signing with the Nets:

"During the summer I always sit with my wife, we talk about different opportunities, different options. It was the same when I signed with Minnesota. We go over all the details, which is roster, coach, money, city. You combine all those together and try to find the optimal option: for me, for my family, where we want to play, how we want to do it, in which city. At this point, the Brooklyn Nets were the best option possible if you combine all those things I just said.
"This is really the best option possible to take a legit chance and win the trophy."
—Andrei Kirilenko

"I understand the money is not that great, not what I could have made. If you take a look at the NBA and take a look at the situation, maybe 10 years ago I'm not sure if I would have taken that deal.

"But right now, it's really the best option possible to take a legit chance and win the trophy. I'm not saying we're going to win – it's going to take a lot of work, but it's a great chance. And for the first time in my career, I'm starting the season when we know we have a chance to win the trophy."

On his expected role off the bench:

"I was worried a little bit in the beginning, but then I spoke with Jason Kidd about it, and I understand we're going to have a pretty veteran team. And I think having 8-10 people who can really play on the highest level and give those minutes between each other, it's a great privilege. Not a lot of teams have that kind of depth – usually you have 2-3 superstars making the max, and the rest of the guys are helping them. Here, you can really have about 7 or 8 guys who play on the highest level possible and start in any lineup in the NBA. It's a very good bonus for the team when you have those kind of players.
"Here, you really have 7 or 8 guys who play at the highest level and could start in any lineup in the NBA."

"I don't have a problem to come off the bench. It's never been an issue, as long as you're playing 25-30 minutes a game. Sometimes you have starting lineups and you don't want to change them, but if you have different combinations of players, some of the games you should be coming off the bench, because it's better for the team: you're going to bring something off the bench, get that second unit flying out and get an advantage at that point. It's a strategical game.

"I think it's going to be a great time in the locker room. All those guys, we've known each other for a lot of time – 10 years. We've seen each other at different events, we've seen each other on the court; we know how competitive we are, we know how we like to fight on the court. But now we're on the same page and I bet we'll do our best to adjust quicker, because we all know that's what's going to help us in the future. If you want to take a long run in the playoffs and go a long way, that's when you have to be on the same page."

On his relationship with Mikhail Prokhorov:

"Since the beginning of my career, going back to CSKA Moscow, where Prokhorov was the owner of the club and the head of the club; he always wanted to be known as the guy who's really trying to get the results. He's a real competitor and he wants to win. It's great when your owner is very passionate about basketball.
"(Mikhail) always wanted to be known as the guy who's really trying to get the results."

"Fans, they like that, they appreciate that, they see the owner worries about the team and has everybody give their best. I'm not saying to be quiet is a bad thing; everybody is different, but I think it's very nice when your owner is involved and wants to win and wants to give his players a chance to win.

"When he got the team, I was very happy that finally a Russian owner has team in the NBA. I think it's a great platform for the NBA people, scouts and media looking for the Russian players, if they have the material to be in the NBA. And I thought it was great, especially in New York with all the Russian community. I had those thoughts that one day I will be on the Nets. But the NBA is such a big market and has such a big business around it, it's a privilege to decide where you want go and where you want to play.

"It kind of reminds me of playing home. In the lockout year I played back in Moscow, and it felt great to have all my Russian fans and everybody speaking Russian. It's nothing against America; I love America. But it's a little extra bonus. We wanted to try New York for a long time, but didn't have the right situation. But now it's a good situation to try. There's a million-and-a-half Russian people in Brooklyn and Brighton Beach. It's going to be a great year if we can bring a lot of them to the basketball matches and see the reaction. With all the Russian people who live in New York, it's going to make a huge impact."

On how the Nets stack up in the East:

"I think the Nets right now are very complete. Every position, you have a player who's an All-Star or sometimes been an All-Star and knows how to compete on that level. There's no recipe right now on how you're going to beat one team, how you're going to beat the other team because it's a game and anything can happen in a game. But you have those guys who have competed in those top moments and they're experienced guys who have played Game Seven many times. I'm not worried about how we're going to compete against Miami, how we're going to compete against Indiana. I bet we're going to compete.
"I'm not worried about how we're going to compete against Miami, how we're going to compete against Indiana. I bet we're going to compete."

"It's going to be a lot with how we quickly we can find the chemistry inside the team – not only in the locker room – because I'm not worried about the locker room; we've got great guys. I'm worried about on the floor, how quickly can we start understanding each other. So far we have guys – I played with Deron, I know what he's doing; Paul Pierce played with KG, he knows what he's doing – but how quick we can connect with each other and how fast we can adjust?"
Nets Central

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