Forward Andrei Kirilenko used a towel to wipe tears from his red and swollen eyes Sunday while discussing his minimal role in the Jazz's 84-75 loss to the Rockets in Game 1. Kirilenko played only 16 minutes - including only the last seven seconds of the fourth quarter.Why was he pulled? Jerry Sloan tried to explain:
"He was missing shots, not making shots," said Utah head coach Jerry Sloan. "They were dropping off him and not even guarding him when he was on the floor. So what am I giving up?"Sounds fair, right? I guess, but Kirilenko only attempted three field goals all night, making one. It seems awfully unfair that Kirilenko's leash is only two missed shots long while Memo Okur can shoot 2-for-14 and Carlos Boozer 4-for-17.
Am I saying Sloan should have benched those guys, too? Of course not -- all three should have been allowed to play. While Kirilenko doesn't bring quite as much to the table as his front-court mates, he does offer quite a bit of defense, and it's somewhat telling that Tracy McGrady scored 10 of his 14 third-quarter points after Kirilenko left the floor.
Given his disappointing season, it's easy to criticize Kirilenko, especially considering he's the highest-paid player on the team. But while I'm sure Kirilenko's tears will make the object of derision in some circles, he just became the a perfect example that for some guys the game is still more important than the paycheck.