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Andrei Kirilenko upbeat about Brooklyn Nets prospects ... despite pundits

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Rod Boone and Tim Bontemps caught up with Andrei Kirilenko by phone late this week, as AK-47 and his coach helped out at Basketball Without Borders in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He was asked if the lowered expectations for Brooklyn will serve as motivation for the veteran team.

"Of course," Kirilenko told Newsday. "If that’s how they talk, we’ve got to prove them wrong. We did a great job of playing Toronto in the first round, kind of showed great character. I think a lot of guys on the team, younger guys like Mason [Plumlee], they kind of got that experience.

"And right now, we are looking forward, the team is staying strong and everybody is looking forward to starting next season, make the playoffs and go as far as possible."

Kirilenko himself has a different regimen this summer than he did last. After years of playing for the Russian national team, he retired from international basketball and spent the summer in the south of France, proudly noting in October that he hadn't picked up a basketball all summer as he relaxed with his family in St. Tropez.  This summer, he is working out.

Kirilenko told Boone his back, which caused him to miss a third of last season, "hasn’t bothered me since December." Kirilenko wasn't exactly enamored with the way Jason Kidd treated him when he was healthy but now, he’s eager to get going under Lionel Hollins.

"But he’s just a nice person. He’s a nice person to talk to, and he knows a lot of wise knowledge, so we’re having a great time here," he told the Post.

Meanwhile, Hollins told Boone and  Bontemps that he embraced international basketball, whether it be BWB, which he has helped before, or FIBA.  "It’s great for the game of basketball. The game is global and a lot of these guys are teammates during the year, and now are competitors from an international perspective with their individual countries, so that’s fun," he told Bontemps.