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The Return of Andrei Kirilenko

The Jazz have done a nice job in their recent three game winning streak of playing as a team and maintaining focus for the entire four quarters. I am excited to see the team improving and realizing their potential, but there is one person in particular I am happy to see return to form- Andrei Kirilenko. The once spindly, whiney small forward has emerged as one of the Jazz's best weapons. I was encouraged to see how much bulk AK had added to his wiry frame in the off-season, but since then I have been even more excited by his strong play. While Boozer seems to see-saw between good and bad games, and the rest of the team struggles with injuries and illness, Kirilenko, along with Deron Williams, has become the most dependable player on the team.

In the past few seasons it was hard to count on Andrei for much consistency, but this year is proving to be his best since his All-Star season a few years ago. His shot, defense and mentality are as good as they have ever been, and he is now a very reliable clutch performer. He was able to hit some huge shots and free throws in the critical final moments of the Jazz OT victory over Detroit on Saturday. In the last few seasons it was customary to leave AK on the bench at the end of the game because of his suspect shooting. I guess the work with former big shot man Jeff Hornacek is paying off because Kirilenko's shot is on target from all over the floor. He led the team with 22 points and 10 boards versus the Pistons. He has been much more prolific from three point range this year as well, which is good, in light of Kyle Korver's absence.

I know things could easily go back to the way they were, but I am confident because of the way he seems to be approaching this season. The added muscle on his body shows me that he is committed and ready for the long haul. If he can keep it up, I see another All-Star game in his future. Welcome back, Andrei, we missed you.

-Conor Bentley


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