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Kirilenko says things with Jazz are 'better'

Teammates say trade demand has not been distraction

Andrei Kirilenko speaks with the media during Jazz media day prior to training camp last week.
Andrei Kirilenko speaks with the media during Jazz media day prior to training camp last week.
Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

If Andrei Kirilenko still wants to be dealt away from the Jerry Sloan-coached Jazz, he isn't doing — or saying — anything lately to serve as a public reminder.

To the contrary, all indications now point toward a more-upbeat Kirilenko than the one who blogged about his trade desires less than two weeks before the club's training camp opened early last week.

"Things are better, definitely," Utah's starting small forward from Russia said Monday. "I'm just worried about how constantly we can do that.

"I'm not expecting to be positive every time, but I want to be as better as I can," Kirilenko added. "That's why I want to work hard (and) I want to see if everything is working as well as my work."

That's much more insight than Kirilenko was willing to offer at Media Day one week earlier, when he responded to a overwhelming number of questions with a simple "No comment."

Still, though, Kirilenko — who was assigned a personal, part-time shooting coach last week, retired Jazz shooting guard Jeff Hornacek — is not willing to address the latest regarding his shaky relationship with Sloan.

Asked Monday if the tone of dealings with the Jazz head coach has been any better since camp opened, Kirilenko clammed up.

"Stop talking about that," he said. "Stop. I'm not going to go there."


Some of Kirilenko's teammates sure seem to be.

On one hand, they suggest the hottest story of camp has hindered nothing as they prepare to open the preseason Wednesday night vs. Milwaukee and the 2007-08 NBA regular season later this month.

"We don't talk about it," starting point guard Deron Williams said. "Y'all (media members) talk about it. That's the only time we talk about it — is when y'all are here. Other than that, it doesn't get mentioned."

"The stuff that was discussed and the situation that happened prior to training camp really hasn't affected this team at all, quite frankly," backup center Jarron Collins added. "It hasn't been a distraction. He's come here and really worked just as hard as anybody here and had a really good camp."

That established, however, Williams and others seemed quite uncertain Monday when queried about an update on the status of Kirilenko's trade request.

That includes those who say they have steered clear of broaching the subject directly with Kirilenko, like starting center Mehmet Okur.

"I don't know about that," Okur said when asked if he thought Kirilenko still wanted to be moved. "I never talk anything about it. Not even one word about 'Are you gonna stay or are you gonna leave?'

"But it seems to me he's just ready to go ... He's looking good out there. He's just playing hard," Okur added. "To me, he just came in with clean mind, fresh body."

It even includes, as well, those who have spoken directly with Kirilenko about the matter.

"I don't know how he feels personally," Williams said. "I mean, he's focusing on basketball. That's all we can hope for. That's all that can be done.

"I don't know (if) maybe in his head, in the back of his mind, he still wants to leave," the Jazz point added. "But as long as it doesn't affect the team, he doesn't let it affect everybody else, then it's not a problem."

Yet the affair has caused at least one to take a stand.

Fittingly, even it is conflicted.

Shortly after Kirilenko wrote about his feelings, Okur used his own Web site to support his teammate, writing, in part, "I believe that people have to respect his opinion that the Utah system no longer is a good fit for him."

Now, though, Okur sings a slightly altered tune.

"I still agree (with) what I said," the Turkish big man said Monday, "because I felt that way."

But, Okur hastened to add, "Hopefully he stay, because I like to play with him. He's such a good player. He makes my job easier, and my teammates' job easier on the defensive end and also the offensive end."

Kirilenko, for his part, suggested Monday that with the start of the season so close now he'll do all he can to keep quiet.

"We just don't like to talk about that right now," he said, "because it's not the time. Right now is really basketball time."

Asked if he can maintain "basketball time" for the next seven months or so, something resembling an actual smile broke across Kirilenko's sad-of-late face.

"Why not?" he asked. "We'll see. Definitely. I will try to do my best."