The Philadelphia 76ers are requesting forward Andrei Kirilenko report to the team and prepare to start playing in games, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
For now, Kirilenko and his representatives are resisting the Sixers' overtures, preferring the organization waive Kirilenko and let him become a free agent, sources said.
After Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Nets completed a trade for Kirilenko on Dec. 11, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has repeatedly expressed to Kirilenko's camp that there are no immediate plans to cut him loose, league sources said.
The Sixers have 14 players on their roster, including Kirilenko, and plan to re-sign forward Malcolm Thomas on Friday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Sixers want Kirilenko to start working his way back into playing condition and eventually be activated to play in games. Ultimately, this could set up the opportunity for Philadelphia to deal Kirilenko for an asset at the NBA’s February trade deadline, or let him reclaim his market value for free agency this summer. Nevertheless, it is unlikely the Sixers would keep Kirilenko past the trade deadline – either hunting down a way to deal him for an asset, or simply waiving him.
Kirilenko, 33, wants the balance of the $3.3 million owed to him this season, and ultimately the freedom to sign elsewhere on a new deal this season, sources said. So far, he's been unwilling to join the rebuilding Sixers, who have the worst record in the league at 3-23, but he eventually could be mandated to report to the team to collect on his contract.
Kirilenko has a family medical issue that has kept him in the New York area since the trade, and that's been part of his desire to stay off the court in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, the Sixers believe their close proximity to New York – and the franchise's expressed willingness to be accommodating on the matter – should necessitate Kirilenko to come to Philadelphia and report to work, sources said.
Kirilenko had fallen out of the playing rotation of Nets coach Lionel Hollins early this season and soon became inactive on the roster. Kirilenko hasn't played in an NBA game since Nov. 13.
Several contenders with needs at small forward would have interest in signing Kirilenko should he become a free agent, but a strong showing with the Sixers could motivate teams to make a deal for him later in the season. Nevertheless, most interested teams believe Kirilenko will eventually become a free agent this season and will refuse to make a trade for him.
Kirilenko struggled to stay healthy with the Nets a year ago, but did hold a more significant role under former coach Jason Kidd when available. Under Hollins, Kirilenko played only 36 minutes before the team moved him to the inactive list in December.
The 76ers sent forward Brandon Davies to the Nets to get Kirilenko and acquired a 2020 second-round pick, as well as the right to swap second-round picks with Brooklyn in the 2018 draft.
Kirilenko has had a decorated NBA and international basketball career. He was an All-Star for the Utah Jazz in 2004 and first-team All-Defense in 2006. In 12 NBA seasons, he's played with the Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Nets.