Team Russia’s road to defending its EuroBasket title just got a whole lot longer; yesterday Andrei Kirilenko – so key to the Russian championship in 2007 – comfirmed that he would not be participating in the 2009 tournament.
Kirilenko’s no show couples another massive absence for EuroBasket, namely point guard J.R. Holden of CSKA Moscow, who is taking a hiatus after earning caps with Team Russia in numerous international competitions up to and including the 2008 Olympic Games.
The top six to seven finishers in the EuroBasket tournament receive entry into the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Russia’s chances – despite a somewhat light group for the first round – have today got to be considered bleak at best. Video of a disappointed coach David Blatt follows.
(FIBA.com) — Russia must attempt to defend their EuroBasket title without star player Andrei Kirilenko after he confirmed his decision not to play in Poland in September.
Coach David Blatt will now be without his two best players of recent years after the EuroBasket 2007 MVP cited personal reasons for his decision not to play.
CSKA Moscow’s naturalized Russian point guard JR Holden, who hit the game-winning shot in the title game two years ago, decided earlier this year to take a break from national team duty.
Blatt spoke about Kirilenko’s decision in the Russian media.
“He sat down with me and explained his situation in terms of why he wanted to take a summer off,” Blatt said. “We had a good talk and I certainly understand his decision. We’re behind him and support him a 100%. Andrei will be back with the Russian basketball team when it’s appropriate for him.”
The loss of Kirilenko is a hammer blow to the Russians’ title defense and also damages their chances of reaching the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.
They will compete in Group B with Latvia, Germany and the team that wins the Additional Qualifying Round. A top six finish is requires to reach next year’s big event in Turkey. A top seven place will be good enough if Turkey finish in the top 10 this summer.