Andrei Kirilenko has left the Nets, and may not be coming back

Andrei Kirilenko has left the Nets, and may not be coming back

When versatile forward Andrei Kirilenko took what felt like a massive pay cut to join the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, many cried shenanigans. AK had just come off of a very good year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he was a few weeks removed from declining the option on the second year of his two-year contract that would have paid him $10 million to stay in Minnesota during 2013-14. When Kirilenko signed for nearly $7 million less per year to play with the Nets, most rightfully assumed that the Mikhail Prokhorov-owned team had sneakily provided him with a cruise ship or two that would stay docked until his two-year, $6.5 million contract ran out.

Sadly, it appears as if AK might be headed toward those calmer waters midseason, because he could be finished with the Nets. The team announced on Friday that Andrei would stay behind on the team’s road trip …

… and that coach Lionel Hollins wasn’t aware if the former All-Star would ever be back:

And the Nets?

Which is all a bit of a bummer. Here’s what Kirilenko had to say about his previous role in the team’s rotation after sitting out on Wednesday night:

Kirilenko said Hollins has been open with him about his decision to leave him out of the rotation.

“I really appreciate it,” Kirilenko said, “but it doesn’t make things easier.”

When asked if he was healthy, Kirilenko said: “I feel fine.”

When asked what he thought he had to do in order to get back into Hollins’ rotation, he admitted: “I have no idea.”

Andrei struggled to overcome a back injury in his first year with the Nets last season, but he was rather competent while on the court. This season, however, has been a disaster – AK has missed all five of his shot attempts from the field, spread out over 36 minutes and seven games. He’s pulled in eight rebounds and managed to make three free throws, but so far his accumulated single game as a member of the 2014-15 Nets has been a bit of a miss. All while purportedly working with a healthy frame.

Kirilenko will turn 34 in February, and though he once was a high flyer his game still figured to likely age well, but the steep drop-off is troubling. AK has battled back troubles for a decade now, starting when Utah’s acquisition of Carlos Boozer (and Kirilenko’s subsequent move down to the small forward position) sort of knocked him out of his comfort zone. Last season was injury-plagued and turnover-laden, and now it’s very possible we’ve seen him play his final game with the Nets.

Hopefully it isn’t the final game we’ll ever see him play. Kirilenko spent the 2011-12 season playing in Moscow, and at his relatively young age there’s always a chance he could work well into his 30s back home. It would be nice to see AK, so full of promise as an all-around terror for many very good Utah Jazz teams, go out on better terms. Being essentially cut from a 4-7 team featuring a middling offense and very poor defense is no way to go out.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!