On Thursday, news began to trickle around the NBA that Andrei Kirilenko had agreed to terms with the Brooklyn Nets on two-year deal for the Nets taxpayer mid-level exception of just over $6 million total.
The second year is a player option, but the news stunned the NBA world.
Kirilenko was a coveted free agent and opted out of a $10 million salary with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2013-14 season.
Apparently, NBA owners and general managers are crying foul play and may suspect the Nets of making an “under the table” deal with Kirilenko in order to secure his services.
The signing of Russian free agent Andrei Kirilenko – a $10 million-a-year player last season – for Brooklyn’s $3.1 mini-midlevel exception has transformed rival owners and front office executives into an angry mob of disbelievers.
The insinuations are unmistakable: Around the NBA, there are calls for the commissioner’s office to investigate the possibilities of side deals and Russian rubles ruling the day – for now, unfounded charges based on circumstance and appearances.
Within the NBA, there had long been those promising that deals would start popping up involvingProkhorov that made no fiscal sense, theorizing that high-end players could take less within the constraints of the salary cap and still make up the difference in clandestine pacts.
Once the Russian billionaire convinced a superb Russian player to take $7 million less to be a backup to Pierce, the rest of the NBA’s reaction was instant and uproarious. For the first time now, the Nets have truly arrived as a contending franchise. They’re good, with a chance to be great, and the rest of the NBA wants an investigation.
Moke Hamilton, NBA AnalystTommy Dee and I spoke about this on this week’s episode of the Mecca of Podcasts. Dee is skeptical of the deal, as most reasonable basketball minds are. On the surface, it appears as though Kirilenko gave up $7 million of money he will never recoup to play for the Nets.
However, Kirilenko entered the offseason looking for a multi-year deal, and that is something that there are no reports of him getting or turning down. Additionally, we have seen players over the years give up money to find themselves with better opportunities to win, and certainly, the Nets offer AK-47 a better opportunity to win right now than the Timberwolves do.
More importantly, when Kirilenko opted out of his contract, it cannot be said that his taking his talents to Brooklyn was preordained. Remember, the Nets had their taxpayer mid-level exception earmarked for Bojan Bogdanovich.
From here, it seems that Kirilenko—whose Timberwolves would not work out a sign-and-trade deal with the San Antonio Spurs—and the Nets were brought together by circumstance. Kirilenko may have decided to take less money to do Prokhorov a “favor,” but if there is no evidence (see: paper trail) of a clandestine pact, the NBA would be way out of line for raising a stink over this.
The league has every right to investigate and sniff out any potential salary cap circumvention, and if anything is found, the NBA will come down very hard on Prokhorov. Rightfully so, too.
But it is not what you know, it is what you can prove.
This promises to get more interesting, but the NBA will not void Kirilenko’s Nets deal (which is possible), unless they have just cause for doing so.