When Mikhail Prokhorov officially took over controlling interest of the New Jersey Nets in 2010, he made a guarantee that within 5 years the Nets would win a championship. At the time the team was coming off a horrendous 12-70 season and Prokhorov was laughed at for making such a bold statement. However, the Russian billionaire seems to be the one laughing now, as he is seemingly changing the game of basketball with his checkbook.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or the CBA, the luxury tax for teams that exceed the salary cap is much higher than it has been in the past. This provision is set in place in order to dissuade teams from going too high over the cap and therefore attempting to create a more balanced league. The luxury tax line for this season was set at $70.3 million. As part of this newer, harsher CBA, any team that spends between $15 million and $20 million over the luxury tax has to pay $3.25 for every $1 spent. In the past the tax was a simple and much cheaper $1 for $1 charge.
Before even stepping on the court the new look Nets will be shattering a record, for the largest luxury tax bill in NBA history. The Nets payroll this season will be around $100 million with an added $80 million in luxury tax. Their luxury tax alone would be over the luxury tax line!
But Prokhorov has made it very, very clear that a bringing a championship to Brooklyn is priceless to him. On Thursday, Prokhorov made a surprise guest appearance at the press conference to welcome Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the organization. During an interview afterward Prokhorov said, “I want to stress once again, like with the luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win championship.”
Prokhorov has not only made waves in the New York area, where Nets fans are buzzing about the major moves the team has made this off-season, but league-wide. A lot of people got to talking when Andrei Kirilenko agreed to terms with the team at a major discount from the contract he just opted out of with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Many whispered that Prokhorov must be paying his fellow countryman and good friend under the table in order to get him to come to the Nets. But both Prokhorov and Kirilenko have insisted that there is nothing illegal going on and there has been no proof of the allegations.
In a time where many teams are beginning to pull back spending in an effort to avoid the luxury tax penalties; the Nets are going full steam ahead with Prokhorov at the helm. Even the mighty Miami Heat has shown they are being forced to cut spending when they used their amnesty clause on Mike Miller this week. This is just a few weeks after Miller was a key piece to their championship run.
Similarly to when the Miami Heat assembled their “Big 3”, Prokhorov seems to be changing the nature of the NBA when it comes to spending. If you are willing to pay the mega penalties that come along with the new luxury tax then you can put together a championship contender. Many owners in the league cannot afford to play by this rule. Meanwhile Prokhorov is writing out checks that would make the late Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner proud.
We might see in the coming years, more and more of the same faces that top Forbes’ Wealthiest People list owning NBA franchises to compete with Prokhorov, who ranks 69th on that list. If not it is likely that Prokhorov, who is reportedly worth $13 billion, will continue to break spending records in an effort to make the Larry O'Brien trophy a fixture in Brooklyn.
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