Brooklyn Nets Minutes Crunch: Andrei Kirilenko


Surprisingly, Andrei Kirilenko has played fewer minutes than Jerome Jordan through the first two games of the NBA season. After averaging a career-low 19 minutes per game last season he clearly was not happy with his role under Jason Kidd. Under new coach Lionel Hollins, that role was expected to change. It was expected that he’d at least be able to crack 20 minutes per game playing both the small forward and power forward positions. However, that possibility became less likely when Hollins installed Joe Johnson at small forward instead of at shooting guard.

In each of the last two games Hollins has played Johnson over 35 minutes and that seems likely to continue throughout the season despite Johnson’s advanced age.  His heavy usage could lead to more minutes down the stretch for the man known as AK-47, but until then, Kirilenko will have to hope for some blowouts to get any substantial time off the bench behind Johnson. With Hollins set on pairing Jarrett Jack with Deron Williams in the backcourt during stretches of games that likely means Johnson will be getting very little of his playing time at shooting guard this year. Kirilenko’s potential for time at power forward looks just as bleak with Mirza Teletovic looking like the Nets 2nd best offensive weapon behind Johnson.

Kirilenko’s defense has been his staple throughout his career, but he hasn’t exhibited the same shutdown ability in his limited time on the court. It’s questionable whether he’s still recovering after missing time due to back spasms and needs to get acclimated to being back on the court.  That question will be difficult to answer without seeing him get extended playing time.  The Nets clearly still have the rebounding deficiencies they had last season and they’ll need to rebound as a team to not be at a significant advantage on the glass. Kirilenko’s hustle and ability to get to loose balls can be a major ingredient to their success in that aspect so it shouldn’t be surprising to see him get more time if the Nets get outrebounded by opponents.

Danny Green and Andrei Kirilenko

The key to Kirilenko’s playing time may depend on the success of Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic has struggled over the first two games after coming over from playing in Turkey. He’s looked somewhat tentative and hasn’t played nearly as aggressive as he did for Fenerbahçe last season.  Despite being a superior scorer to Kirilenko, Bogdanovic’s role is tenuous, with Johnson and Williams dominating the ball on offense and Bogdanovic still adjusting to Hollins’ defensive schemes.  His role could change once Brook Lopez enters the starting lineup as it may allow Bogdanovic more open looks as teams collapse on Lopez in the paint. If it doesn’t, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hollins change the starting lineup and bring in Kirilenko to attempt to make up for his starting lineup’s defensive limitations.

If Bogdanovic does improve, on the other hand, it’s going to be difficult for Kirilenko to get much time on the court this season barring injuries striking. If the Nets are consistently winning and Hollins continues to play his starters heavy minutes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the front office explore trade talks for the Russian small forward with teams searching for a veteran in exchange for a draft pick. It’s obvious that Kirilenko wants more playing time, but Brooklyn may not be the place for that opportunity.