Heading into the offseason it didn’t look like the Brooklyn Nets could do much to change their maxed-out roster. Then they swung a deal with the Celtics for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce which seemed to leave very little cap space to sign veteran players to come off the bench. Then they signed former All-Star Andrei Kirilenko to a deal for roughly $7 million less than he walked away from with the Timberwolves.
Now NBA execs are left scratching their heads with many, anonymously, openly questioning how they did it. How did they get a player who opted-out of a $10.1 million deal to look for a three-year deal worth at least $24 million suddenly decide to sign a one-year pact worth just $3.1 million?
According to a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, NBA owners and front office executives are quietly insinuating that there are some under-the-table deals going on between Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and fellow Russian Kirilenko and they want the league to investigate.
“Brazen,” one Western Conference GM told Yahoo! Sports.
“Let’s see if the league has any credibility,” one NBA owner told Yahoo! Sports. “It’s not about stopping it. It’s about punishing them if they’re doing it.”
An Eastern Conference general manager told Yahoo, “There should be a probe. How obvious is it?”
Apparently nobody in the NBA trusts Prokhorov, despite the fact that they vetted and approved him as an owner. They see the Nets combined payroll and luxury tax bill of $185 million as proof that he’s desperate to win. They also see a questionable deal with another European player — Mirza Teletovic, when last offseason he suddenly agreed to lower his contract with the Nets from $15.7 million to $9 million so they could still potentially trade for Dwight Howard — as further evidence that shenanigans might be going on.
Tt certainly looks bad that Kirilenko walked away from $10.1 million with the Timberwolves to find a three-year deal worth at least $24 million, then nearly had a sign-and-trade deal with the Spurs done for about $7 million, only to eventually sign with the Nets for just $3.1 million. However, that doesn’t mean that backdoor dealings have been going on.
The Nets team, as it is currently constructed, looks almost certain to contend for a championship. It’s certainly not unheard of for a veteran player looking to win a championship to sign with a team like that for less money. It happened with Ray Allen and it’s happened with plenty of players over the years. Just because Prokhorov and Kirilenko are both Russian doesn’t mean that something shady is going on.
Even if there were, it seems next to impossible to prove.