Andrei Kirilenko Likely To Exercise Player Option

January 23 2013 at 8:43am CST By Luke Adams

When the NBA lockout ended a little more than a year ago, most marquee players who had been on teams overseas quickly returned stateside, but Andrei Kirilenko remained with CSKA Moscow for the season. Now that he's back in the NBA with the Timberwolves, Kirilenko doesn't anticipate returning overseas anytime soon, and expects to pick up his 2013/14 player option to remain in Minnesota, according to Lang Greene of HoopsWorld.

"I’m going to stay in the NBA for sure," Kirilenko said. "There is no doubt about it. I like Minnesota and I like [T-Wolves coach] Rick Adelman."

Kirilenko, 31, has excelled in his return to the NBA, and has been essential in Minnesota as one of the few Wolves starters to stay healthy for most of the season. The Russian forward's averages of 13.6 PPG, 6,9 RPG, 35.0 MPG, and 18.6 PER are all his best marks since the 2005/06 campaign.

It's probably too early to consider Kirilenko a lock to exercise that $10.22MM second-year option, since the lure of a long-term deal could change his mind before July. But assuming he decides not to opt out, it figures to affect the Timberwolves' approach this summer. If the team retains Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham, both on non-guaranteed deals, and hopes to re-sign Nikola Pekovic, there won't be any cap space left over to make a run at a significant free agent.

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