The facts: Andrei Kirilenko opted out of next season’s deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, worth $10.2 million, and signed with the Brooklyn Nets on a two-year deal worth $3.2 million a season. Suspicious? Some teams around the NBA think so.
The Brooklyn Nets are going to pay a lot of money in luxury tax next season after adding Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and holding on to the deals of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. How much?
With the Kirilenko addition, the Nets are now paying over $100 million and their tax hit over $80 million, meaning the current 2013-14 roster costs more than $186 million. Prokhorov doesn’t seem to care spending on a team that at its best seems like the third best in the East, nothing more, and is basing itself on the great talent but very shaky legs of key players who are all quite old are known for some injury issues.
But the interesting think about Kirilenko is his past connection to Prokohorov, who used to own CKSA Moscow, who Kirilenko last played for during the 2011-2012 season, preferring to stay in Europe instead of going back to the NBA.
Some players are willing to to forget about money for the chance of playing next to All-Stars like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, given it might be their best chance to win an NBA title in the remaining time he has in the NBA. However, the San Antonio Spurs, with a similar and probably better chance of going far next season were in contact with Kirilenko and never got a deal done.
Still, giving up around $7 million for a deal he probably would’ve gotten if he would have stayed with the Timberwolves for one more season and hit free agency next year? Some might say this is just an example of how the new CBA is preventing teams from overpaying players they used to spend needless money on, but a lot of teams around the NBA are feeling quite different about this latest signing.
Why? Because of the Russian connection, hinting at Kirilenko being paid under the table, or across the Atlantic (or the Pacific, whichever you prefer), to compensate for him taking a hit on his “official salary”.
Are the Nets contenders? Not with the East being the way it is: The Miami Heat, then the Indiana Pacers and probably the Chicago Bulls, and then the Nets. But Kirilenko is another excellent veteran signing that adds defense and a player who doesn’t need too many touches and points to feel satisfied, on a team already filled with guys who need the ball in their hands.