Kirilenko declines to talk about trade demand

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By DOUG ALDEN, AP Sports Writer October 1, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Andrei Kirilenko and Jerry Sloan sat down Monday for the first time since the disgruntled forward announced he was frustrated with the coach's gruff and demanding style.

Guess who won?

Kirilenko faced reporters after the meeting and tried his best to steer the conversation toward Tuesday's opening of training camp instead of his request to be traded.

If Kirilenko was trying to talk his way out of Utah by upsetting Sloan, it didn't work. The often-cantankerous coach sounded downright understanding, saying he was willing to work with Kirilenko.

"I would do about what it takes to win. I would go out on State Street and give him a big hug or whatever you want to go do," Sloan said. "He had some things to say, and I don't have a problem with that."

Sloan is entering his 20th season coaching the Jazz and he's seen unhappy players before. But he also noted he wasn't going to turn over the offense to please Kirilenko -- or any other player.

"I'm going to coexist. That's my job," Sloan said. "Some people don't always see it the way they'd like to see it, but my job is to try to help a player become a better player. If he has problems, I want to try to work through those problems."

Kirilenko is the highest-paid player on the Jazz and still has four years remaining on the $86-million contract extension he signed in 2004. Just after leading Russia to the European championship last month, Kirilenko said he wanted the Jazz to trade or release him.

Kirilenko said he had grown miserable playing for Sloan and felt like a "robot."

Usually one of the happiest players on the team, Kirilenko was uncharacteristically tightlipped Monday. He said he stood by his earlier statements, but did everything he could not to repeat them.

"I've already said everything. All I can do right now is concentrate on basketball," Kirilenko said.

Kirilenko also accused the media of overblowing the situation, although he first mentioned his unhappiness in a blog on a Russian Web site and then did a lengthy interview with the newspaper.

"We never had a conflict with Jerry. You created (it)," he said. "Sometimes we had misunderstanding, but it's not a conflict."

Kirilenko can work his way out of Sloan's doghouse -- or stay in it -- with how he works in practice. He also has some mending to do with teammates, who two weeks before training camp got word that Kirilenko had gone public with his frustration.

The Jazz are coming off their best season in 10 years, reaching the Western Conference finals in their first playoff appearance since 2003. Most of the team is back this fall and the players didn't want to hear any preseason bickering.

One of the most outspoken was point guard Deron Williams, who questioned Kirilenko's work ethic after the interview was published in Russia.

Williams said as long as Kirilenko focuses on the team, he wouldn't hold a grudge.

"He's my teammate," Williams said. "I think it's definitely a start. We won't know until we step out there on the court and see how everything goes."

The only player missing Monday was All-Star forward Carlos Boozer, who is in Miami as one of his sons recovers from a bone marrow transplant. Sloan told Boozer to stay with his family as long as necessary.

Also, C.J. Miles, a second-round draft pick out of high school two years ago, reported Monday with a new contract. The Jazz signed the 6-foot-6 shooting guard to a one-year deal. Miles has played in 60 games in his two seasons with Utah.

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