NEW YORK — Now that he knows for certain he will soon be exponentially richer and that he has a deal in place that runs through 2011, Jazz All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko has a vow.
Money, Utah's very own instant multimillion-dollar lottery winner insists, will not go to his head.
He said so Thursday, the same day it became apparent Kirilenko and the Jazz had finalized their agreement on a six-year contract extension believed to be worth $86.365 million.
"When I step on the floor, I'm thinking about game, and I thinking about (falling) down for the ball, hustling," Kirilenko said. "I will play with the same effort.
"It will not change me, (as) a person or (as) a player," he added. "I will be same. I will stop near the gate and sign autographs for the fans."
Today, the Jazz will formally announce that Kirilenko has signed the paperwork on an extension the two sides have been negotiating since August.
Sunday was the deadline for getting the deal done; if they did not, Kirilenko would have become a restricted free agent next summer.
For the longest time, Kirilenko's camp stood firm on its demand for a max-money $86 million deal.
For less long, the Jazz camp's offered hovered in the low-to-mid-to-high $70 million range — but no more, because Utah would have retained the right to match another team's offer to Kirilenko even if they did not agree to terms before this season.
The breaking point evidently came when Kirilenko and his agent, Marc Fleisher, gave the Jazz the discount they were seeking by agreeing to defer payment of a significant amount of the $86 million — perhaps in the 15 percent range — beyond six years.
Some of the contract may also be incentive-based, though Jazz
basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor would not discuss that Thursday night.
The deal, it's believed, will start at $10,967,500 in the 2005-06 season — or one-fourth of the current NBA team payroll salary cap. This season, though, Kirilenko is locked into making $1.67 million.
Kirilenko wound up, it seems, with the same max money Memphis gave Pau Gasol. The Jazz found a way to save a chunk of change over the course of the contract with the interest it can keep by not having to pay everything right away, plus the fact the contract is maxed at this season's cap figure and not next season's higher number. And both sides apparently are happy.
Kirilenko said he would talk much more about the deal today, but he was beaming both before and after Utah played its final game of the preseason against the New York Knicks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I love Jazz," he said before a 10-point, three-steal, two-block effort in the Jazz's 89-83 loss to the Knicks, "and I love to be (in Utah)."
Just 23 years old, Kirilenko said he looks forward to playing on a team that also this year has signed 22-year-old Carlos Boozer to a six-year, $68 million deal; 25-year-old Mehmet Okur to a six-year, $50 million deal; both 25-year-old Carlos Arroyo and 27-year-old Gordan Giricek to four-year, $16 million deals; and Jarron Collins to a two-year, $3.4 million deal — not to mention rookie contracts for 19-year-old Kris Humphries and 21-year-old Kirk Snyder worth at least $4.78 million and $4.31 million, respectively.
For those counting at home, that is nearly $250 million that Jazz owner Larry H. Miller has committed to spending just since last July.
"We have a young, potentially great team — and a legendary coach (in Jerry Sloan)," Kirilenko said. "We have a great organization . . . and it's a great confidence to build a team that can dominate the next few years in the league.
"And we're still growing. We're young," he added. "It does not mean we are (going to) play right now strong. No. We can build a team right now, and we will try to play strong, and stronger and stronger."