Andrei Kirilenko opted out of the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves that would have paid him $10.2 million next season. He wound up signing a two-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets for the taxpayer mini midlevel exception -- starting at $3.18 million, with a player option for the second year.
The enormous discrepency has fueled speculation among some teams that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has a side deal with Kirilenko, who played for CSKA Moscow from 1998-2001 when Prokhorov owned the team.
"As I said, those type of rumors, I can't control," Kirilenko said on a conference call Thursday, per multiple reports. "I guess it comes from the history of Russia and the KGB. I don't know what that is, what it makes people think. It makes it a little funny, but if it looks funny in those situations, what can I do?"
Kirilenko, 30, returned to the NBA last season after spending a year playing in his native country.
The Nets had sought free-agent Kyle Korver, who signed instead with the Atlanta Hawks, and settled on Kirilenko. He likely will come off the bench behind forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
"I think we've got everything you need to reach that goal. I'm very happy to be in New York, and I'm looking forward to start the season," said Kirilenko.
"I think having eight or 10 people who can really play on the highest level and give those minutes between each other, it's a great privilege. Not a lot of teams have that kind of depth; usually you have two or three superstars making the max, and the rest of the guys are helping them. Here, you can really have about seven or eight guys who play on the highest level possible and start in any lineup in the NBA."
Kirilenko was a member of the Utah Jazz for 10 years. Last season, he averaged 12.4 points for the Timberwolves.
"I don't have problem to come off the bench," he said. "I never have an issue. In Utah, we always talked with Jerry Sloan about that. It's never been an issue, as long as you're playing 25 to 30 minutes a game."