Where in the world is Andrei Kirilenko?
Around. Just not visible.
After bruising the peroneal nerve in his left knee Wednesday during a road loss to Oklahoma City, the Jazz forward has been out of sight throughout Utah's past two home games. When Kirilenko has been forced to miss previous contests this season due to injuries, he normally sits behind the Jazz bench, decked out in a sharp suit with his trademark haircut making him almost impossible to miss. But the 10-year veteran was noticeably absent during recent defeats to New Orleans and Dallas.
Not to worry, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said Sunday. Kirilenko is receiving medical treatment, and the nature of his injury as well as the fact that he is walking with crutches simply makes it impractical for him to be around his teammates during a game.
The forward received additional medical attention Sunday prior to practice, but was not made available to the media.
Kirilenko has had a solid year for Utah, filling up the statistical sheet once again by averaging 11.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks and 31.2 minutes. The minutes and rebounds are the most he has recorded since 2005-06.
But while the 30-year-old Russian native rode a wave of improved health in the first three months of the season, only missing two games, he has broken down during a crucial stretch run as Utah has attempted to keep its flickering playoffs hopes alive. Kirilenko missed five contests in February, and has sat out three in March, dealing with knee, back and ankle pain.
He has played in 64 of the Jazz's 74 games this season. But he has missed 21.7 percent (125 of 574) of Utah's regular-season contests since signing a six-year maximum-contract extension in 2004.
Kirilenko is in the final year of that deal, and is set to make $17.8 million this season. The career-long Jazz player recently stated that Utah still remains his first option once he becomes a free agent this summer. He will also consider returning to Russia if an expected NBA lockout wipes out a significant portion of the 2011-12 season.
"I love everything in Salt Lake. I like the organization. … But I understand it's a business. If Jazz don't want me, I'll understand that and I'll move on," Kirilenko said before a road loss to Memphis last week.
Corbin planned to speak with Utah center Al Jefferson and the team in two separate speeches prior to practice, addressing Jefferson's last-minute ejection Saturday in a home loss to Dallas. "It's just unfortunate," Corbin said. "That's out of his character. So we just want to make sure it's not an ongoing thing." … Kirilenko and Devin Harris (strained right hamstring) did not practice. … Jazz center Francisco Elson is still experiencing left knee pain and has debris in the knee.
Steve Luhm contributed to this report.
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