How Andrei Kirilenko handles reporters – just kidding

Amid a crowd of athletes well-versed in jockspeak, Andrei Kirilenko is a breath of fresh air. Though no controversy-stirrer on the Charles Barkley level (and who is, really, aside from Sir Charles himself), Kirilenko is personable, patient, friendly and fluent in two languages in the interview milieu.

Kirilenko arrived late to “open media” session after yesterday’s CSKA Moscow practice and quickly drew a crowd for the seven or so minutes he spoke to reporters in advance of the Red Army’s title quest tonight.

On the other side of the floor tonight will be Dusan Ivkovic, a man quite familiar with Kirilenko stretching back to the days when AK-47 was not quite the automatic weapon he is today. When asked who wins the battle between player and coach, Kirilenko deferred a bit, stating that “He knows me and Milos [Teodosic], so we won’t surprise him.”

When it was pointed that CSKA had beaten Olympiacos twice this season already, Kirlenko refused to acknowledge his side’s standing as heavy favorites in tonight’s game. “Look at Panathinaikos. We beat them twice this season, too. It doesn’t mean anything” in what is “not a playoff series in which you have a chance to have a mistake.”

Did Kirilenko have expectations going into this season after jumping from the NBA? Would anything less have been a disappointment? Well, said Andrei, “I’m very happy with this season, no matter how the final goes … I’m already happy with this season, because I had a great chance to play for the Russian fans. I had a great chance to play in front of a lot of my friends [and] family. It was a great season; we have a great team.”

Along similar lines, Kirilenko stated only on the inevitable NBA/Euroleague comparison question simply that “It’s a different game” – Perhaps he’s been reading BallinEurope and didn’t seek to start another comment war – and as for playing with the Utah Jazz as opposed to CSKA Moscow, “It’s different. It’s hard to compare. I played 10 years for Utah and I know everyone in that organization … it’s like a second home in the ‘States, but here you get back to the team where you started your career and you still recognize the guy who met you at the train station when you were 19 years old…”

(Hmmm … “a second home in the ‘States,” huh? Could this mean compatriot Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets are in for a rebuffing after all?)

As the press crowd grew around Kirilenko, we were disappointingly scattered by a Euroleague official. Five minutes clearly was not enough – hell, five hours might not have – for all of us. BiE heard one reporter enthuse as he was walking away that “he’s everything you said he’d be.”

Yes, Kirilenko’s a great interview – not to mention Euroleague MVP

For some of the media’s minutes with Kirilenko, check out this video clip posted by the always awesome Euroleague Adventures. (That chuckling a couple of times is BiE’s.)

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