Andrei Kirilenko’s Brooklyn Nets Deal Suspicious to Rivals

by July 12, 2013

According to Andrei Kirilenko’s agent, there’s absolutely nothing shady about his $3.1 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov (this, after opting out of a $10 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.) Fans, media, rival players, front-office executives and team owners aren’t so sure about that. Per Yahoo! Sports: “The rest of the NBA had resigned itself to billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s relentless pursuit of players and playoff success, absorbing it all until the Brooklyn Nets are pushing an unprecedented $185 million in payroll and punitive taxes. From Deron Williams to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to Joe Johnson, these Nets embody the spirit of the Russian’s imperialistic vision. […] 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 involving Prokhorov 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. ‘Brazen,’ one Western Conference GM said. ‘Let’s see if the league has any credibility,’ one NBA owner said. ‘It’s not about stopping it. It’s about punishing them if they’re doing it.’ Another Eastern Conference GM: ‘There should be a probe. How obvious is it?’ The telephone calls and text messages kept coming on Thursday night and Friday morning, and the reason was simple: Few trust Prokhorov to honor the NBA’s salary-cap rules and regulations. He made his $15 billion fortune in the wild 1990s in Russia in what he called, ‘cowboy territory with no sheriff.’ Bribes were part of the business culture, and Prokhorov confessed to his part in it. It is easy to make the accusations, but harder to prove that Prokhorov and his management did anything but a solid sales job after the free-agent market had dried up on Kirilenko. When it comes to uninhibited spending and free-agent coups, the modern NBA has a long list of targets. Understand something else, too: Plenty of American-born owners, running respected franchises, have come under these suspicions, too. Charges of side deals didn’t start with Prokhorov and won’t end with him. Nevertheless, this is the second time there’s been questions about the Nets’ signing of a foreign free agent below market value. A year ago, Brooklyn agreed on a full midlevel-exception deal with Euro forward Mirza Teletovic on a three-year, $15.7 million contract. Shortly after the agreement, Brooklyn realized it needed to alter the exception slot to still keep open the chance for cutting a trade for Dwight Howard. Without re-entering the market, Teletovic accepted a three-year, $9 million deal at the mini midlevel.”