After missing the majority of the season with back spasms, the Brooklyn Nets are elated to see swingman Andrei Kirilenko play in a second consecutive game last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Putting up nine points in just 15 minutes of action on Thursday night, the Russian sharpshooter was more efficient than most expected considering he’s still working his way back into playing form.
The key for Kirilenko now becomes maintaining his health. At almost 33 years of age, he’s no longer a young pup. But so long as he doesn’t overextend himself, he can provide a great lift off coach Jason Kidd’s bench.
Over time, Kirilenko needs to get to a place where he’s averaging somewhere between at least eight-to-10 points a night for the Nets in a reserve role. That should certainly be doable when the only consistent scoring threat coming off Brooklyn’s bench has been center Andray Blatche, who has averaged 11.6 points per game this season.
But Kirilenko’s defensive impact needs to be even greater in order for the Nets to reap the benefits of his availability in the lineup. Throughout his career, Kirilenko’s gained a reputation as being one of the elite perimeter defenders the league has to offer. That cannot change for him even in a bench role.
Many forgot what talents Kirilenko possessed during his extended absence, but now that he’s back, solid production coming off the bench could remind them why the Nets were thrilled to sign him over the summer.