“It gives me great pleasure to welcome Andrei to the Nets,” Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement. “He is a true talent with tremendous versatility. As a fellow countryman, I am especially proud that the best Russian player in the history of the NBA will be wearing a Nets jersey.”
After missing out on Kyle Korver and being unable to reach a buyout with Bojan Bogdanovic's team overseas, the Nets agreed to terms with Kirilenko on Thursday night.
The Nets will use their taxpayer mini midlevel exception to bring Kirilenko aboard. It's a two-year contract with a player option for the second year, a source said. Kirilenko will make $3.1 million in the first year of the deal.
Kirilenko, 32, signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves worth $20 million last offseason, but opted out of the final year worth $10 million to become a free agent again this summer. The San Antonio Spurs were unable to complete a sign-and-trade deal for Kirilenko before he opted to sign with the Nets.
Kirilenko will make significantly less money in Brooklyn, though he'll certainly be playing for a contender.
“It’s something that when free agency starts, you reach out to people and they say, 'No,' and they have a number they’re gonna get,” Nets general manger Billy King said in a conference call.
“And then as the market starts changing, you circle back and they said, 'No, we’re still trying to get a better deal,' and then you just keep checking. And I just said, if you want the opportunity, here’s what we have, if you want to be able to go back on the market next year, you can. I think you’ll have a great chance to showcase your talents on a great team and play in that environment. That was my pitch, and I was surprised by the way the marketplace had turned, you’ve got guys that are still out there trying to get money that opted out of big deals.”
The Russian product has ties to Prokhorov, having played for CSKA Moscow (1998-2001), which was formerly owned by Prokhorov. King said Prokhorov called Kirilenko to help recruit him.
There were rumblings that other executives were upset at how the deal transpired -- given that Kirilenko will make about $7 million less than he did last season -- but King said, “I can’t control what people think and what they say. I think some of the same things were said when Miami got their Big Three together.”
Kirilenko, known for his ability to defend and play multiple positions, can back up forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Kirilenko will be introduced to the media, along with Pierce and Garnett, this Thursday at Barclays Center.
The Nets originally targeted sharpshooter Korver, but he ended up with the Atlanta Hawks for four years, $24 million.
Brooklyn then agreed to terms with Bogdanovic on a three-year contract starting at $2.5 million, but came to an impasse in buyout talks with Fenerbahce Ulker.
King said the Nets were actually targeting another player, but made a last call to Kirilenko’s camp first.
“... and I just said, 'What the heck?", I’ll make one more phone call,” King said. “So I made the call and got an 'I don’t think so.' And then I made another call again and they said, 'We’ll think about it.'"
Kirilenko, who spent his first 10 NBA seasons with the Jazz, averaged 12.4 points and 31.8 minutes per game for the Timberwolves last season. He was an All-Star in 2004, when he averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
The Nets are projected to have a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez, with a bench that features Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry, Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. Their blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics for Pierce, Garnett and Terry became official Friday.
The re-signing of Blatche and the signing of Livingston became official on Thursday.