Andrei Kirilenko has enjoyed plenty of success on the basketball court in the past 12 months, but that doesn’t mean he’s still missing out on other things.
Kirilenko, 32, told reporters this week that he is ready to step away from the Russian national team to spend more time with his family. Kirilenko did not officially say he would retire from international basketball, but did say that he would not compete in the European Championship this September and will focus instead solely on the NBA and on being a dad during the offseason.
“It’s not connected to playing time, I’m not tired, I’m not tired of playing for the national team,” Kirilenko said, via The Star Tribune. “I want to be a better dad. I want to be with my family a little more. I think I already give a lot, play 12 years on the national team. There is time.”
“I was thinking in summertime I don’t have enough time with my kids,” he said. “My wife and kids, I want to be around them. I don’t want to be dad who’s spending two hours and then you don’t see your kids. It’s a hard decision.”
If Kirilenko would be calling it quits for good, then he certainly would be going out on top, or close to it. After briefly leaving the NBA during the 2011 lockout, he returned to Russia, where he went on to win the 2012 FIBA Europe Men’s Player of the Year Award and the La Gazzetta dello Sport EuroPlayer 2012 award while playing for CSKA Moscow and the Russian national team. Then it was on to London for the summer Olympics, where he led his Russian squad to a bronze medal finish. Now, he’s back in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season and he hasn’t missed beat, averaging 13.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
That sure doesn’t sound like a player in the twilight of his career. However, Kirilenko seems content to make way for the next generation of Russian players, handing the torch to players like Alexey Shved, who also happens to be Kirilenko’s teammate on the Wolves.
Despite Kirilenko’s announcement, the Russian basketball federation is still offering him an open invitation to return any time he wishes.
“So far, I feel like I want to be done, but it’s always good to have that open invitation,” Kirilenko said.