MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrei Kirilenko is opting out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him $10 million next season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, making him a free agent.
Kirilenko made the decision on Saturday, the deadline that was written into the two-year, $20 million deal he signed last summer, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.
In turning down the final year of his contract with the Timberwolves, Kirilenko is instead hoping to get a little extra security with a longer term deal when the market opens at 12:01 a.m. Eastern on July 1.
The versatile forward is coming off a rejuvenating year in which he averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game for the Wolves, his best season in the league since 2005-06. The 32-year-old had more spring in his step after spending the lockout year playing at home in Russia, and he flourished in Rick Adelman's free-flowing system.
But Kirilenko also missed 18 games with assorted injuries, one of a number of Timberwolves players who missed significant time last season, the ninth straight year they have missed the playoffs. Kirilenko was largely responsible for the Wolves' dramatic improvement on the defensive end, with Adelman enjoying the luxury of being able to put him on every position besides center, depending on who was the biggest threat on a given night.
His ability to pass and move without the ball also made him ideal for Adelman's offense, and the veteran was superb in helping fellow Russian Alexey Shved make the transition to Minnesota for his rookie season last year.
New Timberwolves President Flip Saunders started getting an inclination that Kirilenko could opt out at least a week ago, and he made some plans for such a scenario.
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