Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An open letter to Andrei Kirilenko

Dear Andrei,

Last night I heard you’d written some blog post that said you wanted out of Utah. Obviously I had an immediate response, but thought I’d wait until it was confirmed that you had actually written the post before I made one of my own.

As of this afternoon, it looks like it’s the truth: after six seasons with us, you want to be traded.

Are you sure about this, AK?

Don’t get me wrong, comrade; I understand your position. Three years ago you were the centerpiece of the Jazz. You were an All-Star. You did everything for us, mostly since nobody else was around that could. When everyone else was either leaving or refusing to come, you played on, happy as you could be.

But now that Deron and Booz have caught on, we don’t really need you to score 20 points a game anymore. We’ve got another foreign All-Star, too. It’s a lot harder to fill box scores when you play on a more talented team, I hear.

Heck, I even understand that playing for Sloan has got to be tough sometimes. But try to cut him a break, Andrei. The guy lost his wife to cancer. Do you think he’s really going to be motivated by whiny blog posts? For Pete’s sake, compared to the guy that coached Stockton and Malone, this Sloan’s a cupcake. He’s a downright friendly guy.

If you really want to go, then go. I just think there are some things you should consider before leaving town:

1. Ex-Jazzmen haven’t exactly led distinguished careers. Granted, you’d probably be the biggest name outside of Karl Malone to leave the team for greener pastures, but if you go down the line, those greener pastures never turned out to be so lush. If I remember right, the biggest ex-Jazz success was Dell Curry. Remember him? I didn’t think so.

2. Patience pays off sometimes. If you get your way and get out of town now, you’re just another selfish millionaire ballplayer. But if you do the noble thing and stick around, you build good karma. Karma paid off for Kevin Garnett, Andrei. Look at the shot he’s getting now.

3. You mean more to the Jazz than you realize. With Utah you have a perfect opportunity to fill a role that is designed for you. You are the perfect “intangibles” guy on a blue-collar team that desperately needs them. Deron may pick up the assists, and Booz might score in the paint, but your blocks and steals and dives and whatever else you pull out of your hat are the things that bring the crowd to life, Andrei. We love you for that, and we want to keep loving you for it.

4. Why would you want to leave a winning team to be a big fish in a little pond? Sure, you might get traded to someone like Phoenix or Dallas, but you’ve made it pretty clear that you’re not interested in winning. You want “freedom”. I understand that, but when your career is over, would you rather look back on championships or scoring titles? Why do you want to be the next Dominique Wilkins? Wouldn’t you rather be the next Scottie Pippen? Go ask Vince Carter, see what he thinks.

5. Utah’s a much nicer place to play than you know. We Jazz fans are a forgiving lot (unless your name is Ostertag). Just look at Karl Malone. His fits and trade demands pretty much became a running gag around here. But when it got time to get down to business, Karl worked his butt off, and we saw that. We forgave and forgot. Even after he shafted us and joined the NBA’s entry in the professional sports axis of evil (Yankees-Raiders-Lakers), we still retired his number. Larry still cried at the ceremony. Do you think you’ll get treated that well in New York or Philadelphia?

(Give me a second. I’m still on the ground laughing after that last one.)

Like I said, Andrei, I know where you’re coming from. Basketball should be fun, even when you’re getting paid millions of dollars to play it. I think you can still have fun with the Jazz, though. And from what I hear, hoisting a Finals trophy over your head can be pretty fun, too.

Give my best to the Mrs.,