|22 February 2013|
|Andrei Kirilenko is the first star to officially announce his unavailabilty for the Russian national team this summer|
FIBA Europe Player of the Year for 2012 Andrei Kirilenko made public on Thursday his decision to retire from the Russian national team, for family reasons.
The Russian super star however left a window open to reconsider his retirement from international duty in the future, but certainly after EuroBasket 2013.
In a heartfelt confession to website sport-express.ru, Kirilenko revealed he had announced his decision to Russian Basketball Federation president Aleksander Krasnenkov, in a recent transatlantic telephone conversation between the two men.
"I explained my position and told him [Krasnenkov] that I had seriously considered and decided upon my retirement from the national team," Kirilenko told the website reporter.
"Krasnenkov asked me one thing, to not make this a definite decision, apply it only to the upcoming EuroBasket, and return to the subject of the national team in one or two years' time.
"The reason [for the decision] is fatigue.
"I've thought a lot about this and have consulted many people - mainly my family and friends."
"The busy NBA season means I spend too much time away from my family, it takes away a minimum of six-and-a-half months a year.
Kirilenko returned to the NBA last summer, after a one-year spell at CSKA Moscow, and joined the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I want to be the best father I can be and be more involved in the lives of my children," the 32-year-old forward explained.
"I want to see them grow and not be limited to telling them bed time stories when I go home at 10 or 11 at night and they are not asleep, waiting for me.
"I'm not ready to spend most of the summer with the [national] team, rather with my family.
"If it was possible to combine the two, I would certainly do it.
"Before, we had been able to find some sort of compromise and it's happened that my wife and children were at training camp with me.
"But I cannot, and should not, bring them along again. They have their own schedule too, which I should adapt."
Kirilenko's decision is a serious blow to Russia, who were silver medalists at EuroBasket 2011 and were hoping to, at the very least, earn another podium finish in Slovenia in September.
The European powerhouse parted ways with long-serving coach David Blatt after the London Olympics, where they clinched the bronze medal.
Russia then handed the reins of the national side to the Greek coach of Uxue Bilbao Basket, Fotis Katsikaris, just before Christmas.
Katsikaris's plans will undoubtedly be severely altered following the news and Kirilenko is aiming to make to reduce the impact of the shock, as much as possible.
"I did not want to keep everyone in suspense for long," the Timberwolves player said, in order to explain the timing of his announcement.
"It was important that everyone involved was made aware of my decision quickly, the coaches, my team-mates and the fans.
"[We can all] agree that it would happen sooner or later.
"Especially now in the team it's time for young leaders [to step up], like (Alexey) Shved, (Sergey) Karasev and others.
"And today's veterans, like (Viktor) Khryapa, (Sergey) Monya, (Vitaly) Fridzon have not yet said their final word."
|The withdrawal of Kirilenko is the second significant blow for the Russians, following the stepping down of national team coach David Blatt|
GOLDEN MEMORIES OF RUSSIAN SUMMERS
Kirilenko first defended the Russian colours in the European Championship for Cadets in 1997, and played at his first EuroBasket in 2001, at the age of 20.
"Personally, I think that I have given the [national] team the best I could, and it's time to transfer leadership and responsibility to others," Kirilenko said.
"I know that some people will agree with this, others will judge me.
"But, in my opinion, the time has come.
"I always came to the [Russian] team in a heartbeat. Over the 12 years that I spent in the team, it gave me a lot - as a person and as a basketball player.
"We won medals and major international tournaments, and these great victories will remain forever in my memory."
26 at the time, Kirilenko led Russia to their biggest triumph since the turn of the century, the gold medal at EuroBasket 2007, over hot favourites and hosts Spain.
"I am grateful for everything, for the positive and negative points and all the guys with whom I was fortunate to play, starting with the veterans when I was 17 years old and up to today's youngsters, now that I am the veteran." he said.
"And of course, I need to especially thank our fans, those that were with us in Madrid for the EuroBasket 2007 victory and in London at the Olympics [last summer]."
"Believe me, this was not an easy decision for me.
"And even if I never play for the national team again, I am not ready to say goodbye for good.
"Maybe there will still be some way to work with, or help in some other way, but unfortunately I cannot any more devote myself to it, to the extent I did before."