The Sixth Man (cont.)
The Russian readers. "I like to read before the game," said Kyrylo Fesenko, the 24-year-old center for the Utah Jazz. Sitting in the locker room 75 minutes before tip-off, he held up a Russian paperback with a drawing of two futuristic sorcerers on the cover. "This is science fiction," he said. "Me and A.K. both are reading science fiction."
"Talk about yourself," said his Russian teammate, Andrei Kirilenko, standing at his locker a few feet away. "Don't talk about other people."
"I'm trying to give you some media attention," said Fesenko, a Ukrainian. "You need it."
"I'm old, I don't need attention," Kirilenko said. "I need to stay out of it."
"You know what [stinks]," Fesenko said, turning back around to face me but speaking loudly for everyone to hear, "is that I always like to bring the full bag of heavy books from home, like 12 or 13 books every year, and he will always bring nothing. He keeps stealing them from me."
"He is always reading mine," Kirilenko shouted back.
The point of this is that Fesenko and Kirilenko are both readers. They read Russian novels in order to relax.
"I like to calm down rather than to get hyped," Kirilenko said. "With me, if I'm worried about the game too much, I kind of get burned out a little bit before it happened. So to me, it's easier to read and just not think about it. Some guys, like [Carlos Boozer] last year, he likes to listen to loud music to get hyped, to get going before the game. I'm a different way -- I need to calm down."
Fesenko picks up new reading material each summer when he visits home.
"There is a really huge book market in Kiev, our capital, and I have a guy that I've been working with for six or seven years,'' Fesenko said. "I come to him and he knows what I like in new books, in the series that are coming out. He's like, 'Dude, you have to try this book.'' '
Both players prefer to not read in English. "I understand English, I can read the scouting report, I can browse the Internet," Fesenko said. "But I want to relax, so I don't want to translate."
Neither do they wish to download books electronically. "Reading the book, folding the papers, it's so cool," Fesenko said. "It's like a ritual. Nothing electronic can replace it."
"I don't like to read on the screen," said Kirilenko, waving his fingers at his eyes. "We're spending too much time with the computer already."
Kirilenko keeps a library of Russian books -- perhaps 1,000 -- in his Salt Lake City home. He reads all genres, whereas the 7-foot-1 Fesenko is particular in his likes. "I'm reading only science fiction and fantasy," he said. "Magic, dragons, elves. I am geek."
Is Kirilenko a geek as well?
"His books are boring," said Fesenko, nodding down toward his teammate's locker. "He has the bad taste, that's why he keeps stealing mine. I have the great taste."
Kirilenko gave no reply. His long crossed legs were extended out from his locker stall. Reading.
This shows where each of the last 10 champions stood through Jan. 7 during its run to the title. Half of these teams were playing to a worse winning percentage than the current Lakers, which is to point out that the two-time defending champs are operating from a position of strength at 25-11.
More important than the start is the finish: After Jan. 7, nine of these champions would win at a 65 percent rate going into the playoffs -- the lone exception being last year's Lakers, who went 29-18 (.617) while managing injuries to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. As ugly as they've looked in recent weeks, the reigning champions shouldn't be written off too soon.
|Records of Past Champs Through Jan. 7|
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