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Jazz players weigh in on A.K. situation

Andrei Kirilenko may not have wanted to say much about his desire to be traded away from Utah, but several Jazz teammates were willing to weigh in Monday on the messy matter.

Chief among them was starting point guard Deron Williams, who since last season ended with a Western Conference finals loss to San Antonio both has been critical of Kirilenko and has expressed a desire to find ways to get the disgruntled starting small forward from Russia more active in the Jazz offense.

"I think that's part of my job," Williams said Monday, when the Jazz held a Media Day gathering before leaving for this morning's start of training camp in Boise. "To a certain extent, you know, there's only so much you can do, so much that can be done.

"If a guy doesn't want to play here, and that's ultimately how he feels in his heart, you can't really control that. But you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible while he's here. I definitely can do that. And getting him involved more — I definitely can do that."

One of Kirilenko's chief issues throughout an offseason of discontent has been trying to deal with what it takes to play for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, a challenge Williams had to overcome during his rookie NBA season in 2005-06.

"I just had to make up my mind that I could sit there and pout and sulk and be angry with (Sloan), or I could take it upon myself and try to bounce back," Williams said. "And I think that's what I did. I took that All-Star break, and I said to myself, 'Regardless of whether he plays me at the 1 (point guard) or the 2 (shooting guard), and whether it's five minutes or 30 minutes, I'm just gonna play hard, I'm gonna compete and hopefully earn some playing time."

But Kirilenko, Williams hastened to add, is in something of a different position because of his status not only as a one-time NBA All-Star but also as a seven-season veteran.

"I don't know if his pride would allow him to be the same as when I was a rookie," Williams said. "I had no room to even voice my opinion, really."

Opinions on the summer-long saga weren't hard to find Monday — especially when it comes to the strained relationship between Kirilenko and Sloan.

"I don't (think) any player ever agrees with anything his coach ever does — but, at the same time, they trust each other, because they know that (each other) knows how to do his job," shooting guard C.J. Miles said.

"As long as they have that medium where they trust each other on the court," Miles added, "they'll be fine."

Added veteran forward Matt Harpring, who played previously in Philadelphia: "I think there might be a little miscommunication going on with (Kirilenko) and Jerry right now. And those things happen all the time. I mean, not only this team. It happens on other teams. You know, I dealt with (former 76ers star) Allen Iverson and (ex-Sixers coach) Larry Brown. I mean, they had many, many differences — and it seemed to work itself out."

Harpring has seen trouble brewing since Kirilenko wept with tears of frustration during the Jazz's first-round postseason series with Houston last spring.

Perhaps even longer.

"The Houston situation was a unique situation in itself," he said. "I mean, you're talking about the playoffs, you're talking about a high-stress situation, you're talking about maybe the whole year coming together in one instance — and a breakdown."

It is little wonder, Harpring suggested, that last month Kirilenko went to the media in his native Russia to make known his trade request.

"Everyone kind of knew at the end of the playoffs last year that there was an issue," he said, "so I don't think this was a surprise to anyone.

"Honestly," Harpring added, "if he comes out, and he's got all the right reasons, and he's doing it the right way, then everyone is entitled to their opinion on what they feel and what makes them happy and not happy."

The Jazz, however, have made it known they have no current plans to trade Kirilenko.

That in mind, teammates hope — and trust — he and others can make the most of what clearly is an awkward situation.

"I think Andrei, you know, he might voice, 'Want out.' But I can't see him not playing hard, or, if he's here, not doing his job," Harpring said. "You know, I mean, (it's) one thing if you say, 'Hey, this might not be the best situation for me' — and (another) to come out on the court and act like a sore loser, or a baby, or whatever. I don't see that in Andrei."

"Hopefully everybody blocks (the distraction) out," Williams added. "Hopefully we can just focus on basketball. That's what we need to do — just try to focus on basketball, get everybody together and start having fun again."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com