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Andrei Kirilenko: "We intend to seriously compete for the title"

The human translation is in! Andrei Kirilenko has told a Moscow sports tabloid that his team remains in the hunt for a championship and it was "difficult" with Jason Kidd as head coach.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In a wide-ranging interview with SovSport, the Russian sports tabloid, Andrei Kirilenko says everyone on the Nets remains focused on a championship for Brooklyn, notes he's happy for Sergey Karasev who he expects will get playing time under Lionel Hollins and offers some telling criticism of Jason Kidd who he said may not have been able to handle the pressure of coaching in New York and whose decision to leave Brooklyn for Milwaukee he called "an unequal trade-off."

"We intend to seriously compete for the title," said Kirilenko, later adding that "everyone is waiting for a championship victory from Brooklyn."

AK-47 once again promised to help his Olympic teammate, Karasev, pointing out that they first met when he played with Karasev's father Vasily at CSKA Moscow (then owned by Mikhail Prokhorov). At the time, Sergey was nine years old.

"Of course!" he told reporter Nikolai Mysin. "It’s always nice when you have a familiar shoulder to lean on, a person who can give you advice and with whom you can talk.  Now I’ll have Seryoga.  And, of course, I’ll try to give him some valuable advice."

Kirilenko said he thinks the 20-year-old will do well in Brooklyn. The two were teammates on the Russian Olympic team in 2012, when Russia won the bronze medal in London.

"Absolutely!  Not only because we’re going to fight for the title.  In Cleveland, Sergey was not allowed to play much.  It’s hard to achieve when you’re not in the game." He added. "I’m sure that at the Nets the situation will be different.  Our new head coach, Lionel Hollins, will certainly give Karasev a chance to show what he can do.""

As he has previously, Kirilenko seemed to diss Kidd, at one point suggesting he may not have wanted to deal with the pressure of coaching in New York, saying, "So the pressure is huge.  And Kidd couldn’t handle it.  Or maybe didn’t want to."  He called the team's second round exit a "lack of success." (Kirilenko's wife, Masha, publicly criticized Kidd for not playing the veteran in the playoffs.)

The criticism got harsher later in the interview.

"Basically he was not able to do much of anything, if you look at the big picture – we have to admit that fact," says Kirilenko,  throwing his arms open.  "There were objective reasons.  Our starting center, Brook Lopez, injured himself early and was out for the whole season.  There were health problems with other players.  But the serious goals set before the club were not cancelled. We were serious about fighting for the title.

"When Kidd became head [coach] of the team, no one really knew what to expect," he added. "Of course he had colossal experience as a player but no coaching experience.  Or reputation.  At the beginning it was difficult.  What else could it be when you’re losing more games than you’re winning?  Things were a bit easier for me as I was injured at the time and couldn’t be on the court and do anything about it, no matter how much I wanted to.  So, inside, I was calm."

As for Holllins, AK-47 likes the idea of having a veteran coach.

"No one knows how we’ll play under Lionel.    Maybe better.  Maybe worse.  But one thing is for sure:  Hollins, unlike Kidd, has huge experience as a coach.  And he has an excellent understanding of what to do and how to develop the team’s playing."

Specifically, he said Hollins will work well with both veterans and young players and won't let young players like Karasev to "marinate" on the bench.

"First of all, Lionel knows how to work with veteran players," he said. "He showed that with the older players at Memphis two years ago, when he took the Grizzlies to the playoff semi-finals.  So, his ability will be put to good use at the Nets.

"At the same time, he has a smart approach to young players.  That will certainly be of use for Seryoga Karasev.  Lionel won’t just let you on the court.  If you’ve earned it, go out there and play.  If not, work harder in practice until you’re ready to fight.  But keeping young players marinating on the bench for eternity and holding back just in case is not something he’ll do."

As for his decision to stay in Brooklyn, Kirilenko said his family loves living in New York, which he says reminds him of Moscow In a family discussion, his son said simply, "Dad, well, where are we going? We're "Brooklyn Nets!"

He spoke as well about the two Russian league coaches who have joined the NBA ranks, David Blatt in Cleveland and Ettore Messina in San Antonio, Kirilenko said positive things about Blatt, but criticized Messina, who CSKA dumped.

"I think that it was the right decision," he said of CSKA. "A coach cannot do as Messina did during the most important game of the season saying "I am not able to coach the team, I am leaving". You are not a player and ask for a substitution is something goes wrong. You are the mentor and you have to motivate the team. You have to convince the team to fight till the end."