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Kirilenko not worried about Russia not making world championships

Andrei Kirilenko's Russian team was denied entry over the weekend into the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan, but the Jazz forward hardly seemed broken up by the news.

"Actually . . . we don't deserve it," said Kirilenko, apparently disappointed with his native country's quarterfinal-round loss to eventual-champ Greece in the 2005 European championships.

The Russians — despite being ranked No. 7 in the world by FIBA, basketball's international governing body — were spurned in favor of Turkey, which is ranked No. 18 and didn't even make it out of the elimination round of the recent EuroBasket 2005.

Yet Kirilenko's Jazz teammate, big man Mehemt Okur of Turkey, does not feel his national team should be going to Japan either.

"We didn't do good this summer, so I don't think we deserve it," Okur said Sunday. "(But) it is what it is. If we've got to go, we've got to go."

It seems politics may have played a part in the bid process.

Turkey already has been tapped to host the 2010 World Championships.

It figures that FIBA, which made its announcement of wildcard entrants for the once-every-four-years tournament Saturday in Rome, was not about to leave the Turks at home in 2006.

"That helps a little bit," Okur said with a sly smile.

"They look at it from a commercial point," Kirilenko added. "I think it's good to give them a wild card, because they'll be the next (host). All around the world they should know it."

FIBA's three other wildcards went to Serbia & Montenegro, Italy and Puerto Rico. The United States had previously qualified, but Jazz starting shooting guard Gordan Giricek's Croatian team also was denied an invitation to Japan.

The biggest surprise, though, may be that the Russians aren't going.

But so be it, suggested Kirilenko, a 2000 Russian Olympian who broke his nose while playing at the European tourney this past September.

"I have summer off," Kirilenko said. "I think (Jazz basketball boss) Kevin O'Connor will be happy — so I can't broke my nose again."

OUT IN THE COLD: Because the furnace was not working properly at Zions Bank Basketball Center, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan deemed the chilly facility unfit for practice Saturday.

As a result the Jazz, idle until playing host to Indiana on Tuesday night, practiced Sunday morning — which was to have been an off-day.

If it were up to Kirilenko, though, he and the rest of the team would have worked out Saturday. Kirilenko, after all, can't count how many practices he had in cold, drafty gyms in Russia.

"Tons of them," he said.

The cold, in other words, does not exactly bother him.

"I could practice outside tonight," Kirilenko said.

BRRR II: Eighteen-year-old Jazz rookie C.J. Miles, who calls Dallas home, woke up Sunday to his first full-fledged Utah snowfall — and the realization that he does not own a pair of gloves.

"That's what I need to go buy," he said. "It's on my to-do list."

Dallas doesn't exactly get Utah-style winter storms, but Miles does recall getting a little snow and ice every few years.

"It was enough to put it all in trash can and dump it on the principal," said Miles, who at this time last year was attending Skyline High School in Dallas. "I didn't do it, though. I just watched."

MISC.: Calling himself "very excited," Kirilenko said Sunday he plans to play Tuesday for the first time after missing seven straight games due to a sprained left ankle . . . Bothered a bit by Achilles tendinitis, Giricek did not finish practice Sunday. He is listed as "day-to-day." . . . Enjoying their longest break between games until after Christmas — three full days off — the Jazz will practice again this morning.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com