Andrei Kirilenko loves to read.
After an early season loss to the Denver Nuggets, the press drifted away from his locker to wait eagerly for the appearance of Kevin Love, fresh off his miraculous—and first—return from a hand injury. Kirilenko busied himself with preparations for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first extended road trip out west, packing a stack of paperback books with Cyrillic type on their black covers into his bag. “What are you reading?” I asked.
“Russian,” he said with a smile.
Kirilenko’s dry sense of humor might be completely unexpected if you’ve only watched him on the court. After their recent and unexpected win over the Houston Rockets—a win that saw Kirilenko work more as a distributor from the elbow—a reporter pressed him about exactly how that strategy opened up the floor.
“You’re trying to get all the secrets,” he said. “We got a win and we have to be quiet right now and save it for the next game.” When he’s enjoying a win like this, his deep-set blue eyes don’t seem as unreadable, nor his high, prominent cheekbones as sharp as they can look under the bright lights of the arena.
The day before the victory over the Rockets, which snapped a five-game losing streak for the Wolves, he sat in the tunnel outside the locker room. He appeared neither down about the streak nor amped up about what the next game might bring. Aside from his warm-ups and the way all 6’9” of him seems an ill fit for a tiny black folding chair, you wouldn’t have guessed he was a professional basketball player as he talked about his reading habits.
“I always read three, four books that are fantasy, that I like, and one has to be a classic,” he said. “You don’t