Two years ago, Andrei Kirilenko had one of his best seasons in years. He did miss 18 games, but that was the least he had missed in five years. And across the board, he had his best numbers in years as well. He averaged 12.7 points, his best total in six years; shot 50.7 percent, his best showing ever and 5.5 rebounds, his highest in seven years.
That's why he was considered such a steal at the mini mid-level, so much so that some team --some in the organization suspect the Knicks-- asked the league for an investigation into whether there was some sort of a Russian side deal. Considering what a bad year he had, an investigation wasn't really necessary. He missed 37 games and averaged only 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds. Brook Lopez may have been out for the season. Deron Williams may have played on two bad ankles, but AK-47 was, in fact, the third member of the walking wounded in Brooklyn, devastated by chronic back spasms.
Now, after some minor tightness in his back caused him to miss five days of practice, Kirilenko has started off the preseason looking very good, scoring 13 points and filling the stat sheet like only he and a few others can. He had six boards, three assists, two steals and went to the line 11 times, Should Nets fans even dream that he could be the same player he was in Minnesota (or with CSKA Moscow the year before that when he was Euroleague MVP)?
As Mike Mazzeo reports, his coach is hopeful. After the game Hollins said if he had to give out a game ball, one would go to point guard Deron Williams and the other would go to Kirilenko "for what he did defensively and getting loose balls for us."
We know its only one game -- and against European competition, but conventional wisdom around the league is that Kirilenko, once the master of the 5x5, is done at 33. So any sign is a good sign. Kirilenko doesn't seem to think he's done Said AK-47 with a smile after the game: "Well, I was just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, trying to be active and bring some spark off the bench, and it works."