LONDON –- The last time Andrei Kirilenko walked off the court at The 02 arena, he had an Olympic bronze medal around his neck.
For the Brooklyn Nets forward, London has been a happy hunting ground.
“I played here [in the Euroleague] against London Towers,” recalls the Russian. “I still remember those games. Every year I come back on vacation, so I have a lot of good memories here.”
Ideally, he would like to make one more in Thursday’s game here when the Nets play the Atlanta Hawks.
For the league, it is the fourth regular-season game in Europe, following in the path of the Nets’ doubleheader against Toronto in 2011 and last year’s clash between the Knicks and the Detroit Pistons.
But amid the talk of whether the NBA could expand to Europe, another intriguing debate bubbles on: How would the best teams on this side of the Atlantic fare if they were thrown into battle against the best from across the pond?
Kirilenko is better-placed than most to judge. During the abbreviated lockout season of 2011-12, he stayed home to play in the Euroleague for CSKA Moscow, taking them to the final while being named MVP.
Could they, or one of the present-day giants, be competitive in the NBA?
“If you look at the two exhibition games CSKA played in the USA this season, they beat Minnesota in overtime and lost by two or three points to San Antonio,” Kirilenko told ESPN.com.
“It’s very close level-wise. The problem is the length of the season. In Europe, you play two games a week. In the NBA, you might play five games a week. This is the huge difference. From the physical standpoint, it’s going to be very difficult to sustain that season.”
Kirilenko -- who confirmed he will not play for Russia in September’s FIBA World Cup in Spain -- will catch up this week with a group of friends who have flown in from his native land to see him in action.
He'll likely also get a rare reunion with Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who is scheduled to attend.
“I haven’t seen him; I think he was only in [Brooklyn] for one game,” Kirilenko said.
“If he sees us, we’ll see him.”
PRUNTY RE-UPS: Nets lead assistant Joe Prunty has agreed to a new deal to remain as the head coach of Great Britain’s national team for this summer’s EuroBasket qualification round.
Team sources confirmed that approval has been granted for him to take the helm for a second campaign after guiding an inexperienced side to the brink of the second round of the finals in Slovenia in September 2013 -- without the services of Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Joel Freeland of the Portland Trail Blazers.
British Basketball has called a press conference Wednesday to formally announce the return of Prunty, who was an assistant in Cleveland before coming to Brooklyn last summer.