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Luhm: Retire Andrei Kirilenko's No. 47? Not a bad idea

Published January 5, 2013 5:22 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Jazz have retired eight numbers in franchise history.

It might be time to make it nine.

Andrei Kirilenko loped back into Utah last week, this time as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His homecoming got me thinking.

Should Kirilenko's familiar No. 47 someday hang from the ceiling at EnergySolutions Arena?

I think so.

Despite his massive contract that limited future roster moves because of salary cap and luxury tax concerns …

Despite the injuries that forced him to miss almost one in every four games during his final six seasons with the Jazz …

Despite the fact he never became quite the player his skills would have allowed if he'd worked a little harder and not relied so much on his God-given ability …

After 10 seasons in Utah, Kirilenko is among the top eight in every major statistical category in franchise history.

He is second in blocked shots behind Mark Eaton, whose No. 53 has been retired.

Only four players, led by Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, handed out more assists.

Only five players, including Malone, Stockton and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, scored more points.

After his long-running feud with owner Larry Miller, even Dantley had his No. 4 retired in 2007 by the team he carried during its early years in Utah.

At the time, hard feelings were put aside and Dantley received an overdue honor — one that Kirilenko someday deserves.

Statistically, it's clear the native Russian fits the mold of the Jazz players whose jerseys won't be worn again.

But what about those other issues?

Well, I'm not certain anybody can begrudge the six-year, $86 million contract he signed after his only All-Star season in 2004.

I remember talking to general manager Kevin O'Connor during those negotiations.

When I asked if Kirilenko was a player worth a maximum contract, O'Connor smiled and said, "Oh, yeah. I think he's pretty close."

At the time, the deal made sense.

In hindsight, Kirilenko was overpaid.

But I don't think that's a good enough reason to turn a blind eye toward all he accomplished during his days with the Jazz.

What about all those injuries, you ask?

I learned a long time ago that doubting a player who says he's injured is a recipe for inaccurate reporting.

Professionals play when they can, sit when they can't and work diligently to return.

Those who believe otherwise are playing a dangerous game.

Were there nights when Kirilenko could have played at less than 100 percent?

Probably.

But in such a frame of mind, would he have been effective and helped the Jazz win?

Unlikely.

Kirilenko was greeted warmly by Jazz fans Wednesday night, when he was introduced prior to Utah's game against Minnesota.

He smiled and seemed genuinely touched by the reception.

Kirilenko's response showed that, despite a few bumps along the way, his years with the Jazz remain close to his heart.

Should the franchise ever contemplate retiring No. 47, I don't believe the arguments against it would outweigh the reasons for doing so.