When Andrei Kirilenko opted out of his contract with the Wolves that would have paid him more then $10M for 2013-14 season, you could almost hear the sigh of relief from 600 First Avenue. For better or worse, the Wolves front office clearly valued the flexibility they would have without AK to what he would bring them on the court at that price. They showed it by immediately going out and looking for a shooting guard to spend that money on, eventually coming to terms with Kevin Martin.
Despite the desires of many fans (me included) for the Wolves to find a way to bring Kirilenko back, it has become clear in recent days that they have little or no interest in doing so. Clearly Flip Saunders prefers shooters, and there have been suggestions that even coach Rick Adelman is less then enthralled with him:
From Andrei's side, he obviously decided to opt out in order to secure one final long-term contract, instead of playing out his one year deal. Although it was always an assumption on our part, we thought he was probably looking for a three year deal valued at $7+ million annually. So far, he apparently hasn't come close to such an offer, and as the number of teams with cap space dwindles it is increasingly hard to see him getting a contract anywhere near what he expected.
Part of the problem with Kirilenko is of course his tendency to miss 20 games a year. In addition, he is 32 years old, and teams are hesitant to commit long term to players into their mid-30s. However, with the number of players receiving four year deals in the $24-$28M range, I would have thought someone would value AK at least close to that. Despite missing some time, he was the Wolves' most valuable player last season. I expected the smarter front offices to value his ability to contribute in a variety of ways.
So what's next for AK? There was talk that his agents were asking the Wolves to participate in a sign and trade, but the Wolves cannot take any salary back in an AK trade and still have enough cap space to sign Martin. There was a brief rumor this morning that Cleveland might offer him a one year deal, but that's not what he wants.
It's really unfortunate that he can't seem to find an appropriate home, because with his intelligence and all-around game, it's hard to believe he couldn't help a team. He could still help the Wolves if they could only find a way to hold on to his rights while signing Kevin Martin, but that doesn't look possible right now, and it doesn't appear of interest to the front office either. More's the pity.
At this point, it isn't clear that anyone is even going to offer multiple years at the MLE, which I think is the least he deserves based on his play.
I hope he finds a job at a suitable salary; with the Wolves or anyone else, Andrei is a joy to watch. He should have a place in the NBA.
Good morning everybody. We'll keep track of any further news in comments.