Here’s the globalization of the NBA in all its wonderful fury: A man born and raised in Soviet Russia is now the most aggressive spender in the league, which has socialized itself with a new collective bargaining agreement.
For better or worse, it doesn’t get any more American than that in this contemporary age of economic outsourcing, foreign investing and supposed redistribution of wealth. As outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern sails into the sunset, the fruits of arguably his greatest accomplishments — spreading the game beyond North America, getting the Nets out of New Jersey and a new CBA — have somehow converged in a borough across the bridge and given rise to another kind of invasive tree in Brooklyn.
But this book is all about opulence rather than austerity. In other words, vodka shots are on the house at Barclays Center!
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who, according to Forbes, is about twice as wealthy as Heat owner Micky Arison, has racked up a projected payroll this offseason of more than $100 million. Whereas everyone else around the league started tightening the screws this offseason in preparation for the NBA’s new age, Prokhorov went gangsta’ and assembled a team of familiar Heat rivals with one goal, preventing a three-peat.
At small forward there’s Paul Pierce, who LeBron James has called his No. 1 rival in the league. At power forward there’s Kevin Garnett, whose disdain for the Heat is second only to his dislike for Carmelo Anthony. Off the bench, and back from his “Twitter death” after being dunked on by LeBron (Google it), is Jason Terry, who, while playing for Dallas, twisted the knife in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals.
In luxury tax alone, Prokhorov will be on the hook for about $80 million at the end of the 2013-14 season. In comparison, the Heat’s luxury-tax bill was projected at more than $30 million before it parted ways with Mike Miller to save money. To fully appreciate the absurdly brutish way in which Prokhorov has been throwing around his money, consider that the Nets’ expected luxury tax bill is greater than the payrolls of the large majority of the league.
Might the Nets now be interested in Miller, you know, just to stick it to the Heat? That’s tasty but doubtful, considering Miller (now a free agent after clearing waivers) is healthier than he has been in three years, and all Brooklyn would have to offer him as a free agent would be the veteran’s minimum and a seat on the bench.
Adding Miller would be an all-out declaration of war, but, make no mistake, the Nets already have enough to compete for the Eastern Conference crown. When Joe Johnson is the “weak link” in the starting lineup, you’re a contender. Of course, it’s the deep bench that the Nets are hoping will prove the difference in a seven-game series, and already you can see how this team might stack up with the Heat.
Deron Williams will have the advantage at point guard, center Brook Lopez will be a mismatch in the paint and Andrei Kirilenko will come off the bench and guard LeBron. Parallels already have been drawn between the doomed 2012 assemblage of talent in Los Angeles and Brooklyn’s big haul this offseason. Not buying it. Pierce and Garnett are both old, Terry is a reanimated walking corpse and Williams, apparently, has an addiction to Gray’s Papaya (or something like that), but as long as Lopez isn’t traded for Dwight Howard, the Nets should be just fine.