It didn’t sound like Brooklyn Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko was trying to rattle the lion’s cage at all on Thursday, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if his comments about LeBron James end up having that effect, regardless.
“He’s definitely one of those guys who is tough to guard,” Kirilenko, seeking to return from back spasms, said leading up to Brooklyn’s meeting with the Miami Heat on Friday night. “I wouldn’t say he’s the toughest to guard one-on-one, but he’s definitely in that category.”
So who does Kirilenko believe deserves that title?
“For me, personally? I would say Kevin Durant and Kobe [Bryant], because they’re very motivated to play with the ball,” Kirilenko explained. “LeBron is way unselfish, and he will pass it as soon as the guy is open. Kevin and Kobe, unless the guy is wide open, like wide open and ready to shoot, they will keep going at you. They’ll keep going at you. That’s why it makes it harder to play against those guys.”
Kirilenko clearly meant no disrespect. LeBron himself admits to being a playmaker first and foremost. But this is something Kirilenko should’ve kept to himself simply because there’s a possibility James, being the best player in the world, could still feel a little snubbed, which could translate to more attacks directly at Kirilenko if he does play on Friday.
And a 6-foot-8, 250-pound physical specimen possibly coming right at him even more often than he originally would’ve is the last thing Kirilenko – and anyone for that matter – wants.
When James successfully goes into score-at-will mode, he doesn’t need much help from his teammates on the offensive end. Everyone’s well aware he’s one of the few players that can drop 40 or 50 points any given night and make it look easy as pie.
But what’s done is done. Kirilenko just better be completely prepared for the potential of a much more aggressive LeBron.