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Andrei Kirilenko has been granted restricted free agency - by his wife.
Masha Lopatova, a former Russian pop star who has been married to the Jazz forward for nearly six years, understands the temptation NBA players are faced with as they travel around the country for seven months a year. And she believes that forbidding something only makes it more tempting. That's why, she revealed in a story in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, she allows Kirilenko an "allowance" of one night per year with another woman.
"What's forbidden is always desirable. And athletes, particularly men, are susceptible to all the things they are offered," Lopatova said before the Jazz's loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. "It's the same way raising children - If I tell my child, 'No pizza, no pizza, no pizza,' what does he want more than anything? Pizza.
"So this is the arrangement that Andrei and I have," she said, adding, in the spirit of openness, that she does not have a reciprocal agreement with her husband. "If I know about it, it's not cheating."
Kirilenko, according to the magazine story written by Salt Lake City freelance writer Chad Nielsen, has no plans to exercise his "allowance."
"Of course it was a surprise," Kirilenko said. "I'm not planning to do anything. But she said, 'If you want to do it, you can do it.' "
Lopatova said she doesn't worry about revealing something so personal, even in conservative Salt Lake City. "Me and Andrei, we're very open people. I barely have secrets. It's not like I'm one person in Salt Lake City and a different person in Moscow. My whole life is on the surface," said Lopatova, a celebrity in Russia who has a 4-year-old son, Fedor, with the Jazz veteran. "I find that people in this country are really interested in athletes and their [families], for some reason. They don't want to know what kind of books I read, but they prefer to know what kind of underwear I wear."
Now that the not-so-secret is out, Lopatova joked in the ESPN story, "Girls will be lining up outside his hotel door."
Kirilenko expects to be back in three days
Kirilenko's back is "getting stronger, but still a little bit sore," he said Wednesday, and the injury forced him to miss his 11th game of the season.
"It's less pain than it was before [when he suffered the same injury in December], but it's weak. So all moves, like up and down, slash or run, make me weak," Kirilenko said as he arrived at the Delta Center for treatment. "In December, it was much worse. Right now I feel much stronger, but it keeps me out of any moves."
His expectation for being able to play again? "Three days, probably," Kirilenko said. The Jazz went 0-3 in December when Kirilenko's back pain first flared up, and they are now 2-9 this season without him in the lineup.
The injury wasn't the result of anything that happened on the floor during Monday's 117-108 victory over Golden State, Kirilenko said. He could feel the soreness coming on that morning, but tried to play anyway.
"I felt the weakness, so I wore [support] belt, worked with massage therapist," said Kirilenko, who played only eight minutes and took himself out of the game at halftime. "I tried to run, then I force myself to run. At end of quarter, I felt like I just couldn't move."
In the same boat as Williams
After using a high draft pick on an experienced college point guard, the coach has had to interrupt the rookie's training in order to play him at the shooting-guard position.
Hey, Jerry Sloan's not the only one.
Raymond Felton has been playing an unfamiliar position alongside veteran Brevin Knight in the Charlotte backcourt, much like Deron Williams has done for the Jazz, and Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff believes the rookie will be the better for it.
"When he goes back to [the point], he has that experience in the offense to draw on," Bickerstaff explained. "The tough part is making the mental transition, but he is learning to handle that."
Mostly, Bickerstaff said, teams with young point guards - and their fans - "have to understand the importance of patience. There's going to be some ups and downs. . . . The feel for the game, all the rest, that will come in time. But I don't think you can rush that."