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15. Andrey KIRILENKO (Russia)
Andrey KIRILENKO (Russia). Spain v Russia. 2012 Olympic Games: Tournament for Men, Semi-Finals. 10 August 2012
RUS - National team loses Kirilenko

MOSCOW (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - All good things eventually come to an end, and so it appears to be with Andrey Kirilenko and Russia's national team.

The Russian and European basketball icon has decided not to play for his country at this summer's EuroBasket in Slovenia, a qualifying tournament for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Russia's Basketball Federation (RBF) have announced in a statement on their website that the 32-year-old will not play for the next four years.

Under the headline "Andrey Kirilenko made a decision about the NT", the federation writes: "After the All-Star Weekend, RBF President Alexander Krasnenkov and the Player of Russian national team Andrey Kirilenko had a discussion, and Andrey announced his decision not to play for the national team during the next Olympic cycle (four years)."

Last summer in London, Kirilenko helped his country capture Olympic bronze with a victory over Argentina.

"I have made the decision, though to be honest it wasn't easy," Kirilenko said in the RBF statement.

"Playing for honor and a responsibility all these years, I was proud to be part of the team."

Russia had talented sides the past several years under David Blatt, but when Kirilenko played, he was the superstar and the leader.

In an interview with the Sport Express Newspaper, Kirilenko says he wants to spend more time with his family during the summer.

"I want to be the best dad and be more involved in the lives of my children," Kirilenko said.

"I want to see them grow up - not be limited to (reading them) bedtime stories…

"I'm not ready to spend most of the summer in the team, and not with the family. If it were possible to combine, I would certainly do it."

Russia have tried to accommodate Kirilenko in this regard, with his family having joined him during training camps.

"But I cannot and should not carry them along," he said. “They have their own timetable, under which I myself must adapt.”

Kirilenko, a long-time forward in the NBA with the Utah Jazz who is now on the books of the Minnesota Timberwolves, felt it best to make the announcement now so Russia have more time to consider their options before the EuroBasket.

"I did not want to keep everyone in suspense for long," he said.

RBF President Krasnenkov said of Kirilenko: "There is no doubt about his contribution to the development and promotion of basketball in Russia. I wish Andrey success, health, and I hope that no matter what, he will continue to participate in the national team with a different role."

Losing Kirilenko is not how new coach Fotis Katsikaris wanted to start his reign as national team boss, yet the Greek remains upbeat about the side's chances at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia, a qualifying tournament for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

"The value of Andrey as a player, the leader of the team, is incalculable," Katsikaris said.

"However, we should respect his decision. I do believe in the ability and character of the other players. So I hope that we can meet the expectations of the fans."

Kirilenko spoke with optimism about the future of the national team.

"We achieved excellent results," he said, “but I am sure that in the future, the team will have a lot of wins."

Russia will play in Group D at the EuroBasket against Turkey, Greece, Sweden, Italy and Finland.


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