We're going to be repetitive this week. So new? We argue the Nets' spending can be justified because of their unique position ... and it has little to do with the owners' wealth and a lot more to do with the team's increasing value. We look at the latest numbers: payroll, luxury tax, age, uniforms. We review Alan Anderson's close relationship with Kevin Garnett and wonder about training camp invites, Bojan Bogdanovic and other things
Money, money, money
The Nets are still spending and there are still people out there who don't understand why.
The thing that probably most disturbs us about the criticism of the Nets moves this summer is the acceptance by many writers and pundits that the Nets spending is just, oh, so wrong. It shows a bias in favor of the other owners' vision of the NBA, a financially responsible league where players' salaries are reduced and profits are enhanced.
You can't spend money like this and be responsible, the thinking goes. As Rob Mahoney writes this weekend for SI's website, what Mikhail Prokhorov is doing is very risky...
Out of a desire to push his team closer to immediate contention, he’ll eat $101.3 million in payroll alone next season before sorting out revenue sharing, other operating costs and the monstrous luxury-tax hit that follows. These may be of little matter to a man with such deep pockets, but racking up a string of seasons as a taxpaying team will come back to burn these Nets as they look to reload after Pierce’s possible exodus in free agency next summer and Garnett’s possible departure the following year. The mission of upgrading the roster was very clearly accomplished, but the cost to the team’s future and flexibility was profound.
Hardwood Paroxysm tweets about how he likes what the Nets have done with their bench, "begrudgingly." Why so begrudging? Because an owner is spending money?
I begrudgingly really like what the Nets did with their bench this summer. Hard to make fun of them for just spending money— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 27, 2013
Here's the reality: Mikhail Prokhorov's decision to spend, made over the summer, is not some whacky, ego-centric vision. It's simply a different vision than what other owners see as the NBA's future, It's a vision based on the Nets unique situation. And it's working!
As we have noted before, this summer is a smart investment because of the enormous increase in the team's valuation over the past three years. The Nets are investing in an asset that has already performed well and promises with greater success to perform even better. It's what smart businessmen do.
Without reiterating the numbers, just accept that Prokhorov's investment in the Nets and Barclays Center has, as he's said, increased "fivefold" in three years! Not only is that the biggest increase in team valuation in the NBA over that stretch, but it may also be the biggest increase in valuation for any of his companies! He sold out of his gold mining stock at a significant profit (giving him about $8 billion in cash on hand, says Forbes) but not 500 percent. Some of the other investments he made during the worst of the recession have actually foundered in recent years. In the ONEXIM constellation of companies, the Nets are among the brightest stars. Also, look at this week's other news: in the first six months of 2013, Barclays Center was the highest grossing arena in the United States and second in the world! It won't celebrate it first anniversary for another two months! Along with the 80 percent of the Nets, Prokhorov owns 45 percent of the arena.
At the end of the Nets last season in New Jersey, to great derision, Prokhorov told a small group of season ticket-holders that he "dreams" of creating a "dynasty" in Brooklyn. Here's the context, as we reported...
"I dream about a dynasty not a single championship," said Prokhorov, arguing that Brooklyn with its global brand and marketing opportunities will change players' perceptions of the Nets. "Brooklyn helps us think globally ... gives us a competitive advantage." Among the global initiatives he plans for the Nets are more games overseas, including in Moscow as early as next season.
"Great players will be willing to play with us," he added, noting that some players he's tried to recruit in the past were turned off by having to wait a year or two for Barclays Center to be completed. "It was impossible," he said.
Building a dynasty is a business decision, not some self-absorbed frolic by a Russian oligarch. He knows that winning will further add to the value of the team and the arena. It's a smart strategy, different but still, as the record shows, smart. In 2010, he made two predictions, one more publicized than the other. He told New York writers he expected a championship by 2015. And less well known he told a Russian writer he expected the value of his Brooklyn investment to be worth a billion dollars by 2015. He's doing just fine on both. (He and Bruce Ratner may also be creating a new business: revamping older arenas like Nassau Coliseum into entertainment venues.)
As AP's Brian Mahoney has noted, most owners are wealthy enough to do what Prokhorov has done this summer. They simply don't want to. Could the Thunder, whose owners are reaping the benefits of America's natural gas boom, afforded to keep James Harden? Sure, they could have. Other owners don't have the "stomach" for it, he wrote.
Oh, one other point about Rob Mahoney's comments: He suggests that Pierce is likely to leave after next year. We wouldn't be so sure of that. He does well, the Nets can re-sign him ... and almost certainly will.
Alan Anderson's history with KG
Alan Anderson has wanted to play for the Nets for a while. (Imagine that!) He praised Barclays Center to his local paper after getting a first look and was the Nets' "Plan B" after Bojan Bogdanovic couldn't get his buyout reduced. The Nets were talking to him and his agent when Andrei Kirilenko called back to say, yeah, I'll take that offer. Now, he's made it and with an added bonus: he'll be joining his old mentor, Kevin Garnett.
Anderson is 30 and has had a varied career. A basketball vagabond. Undrafted out of Michigan State, he played for the Bobcats in 2005-06 and 06-07. After being waived, it was on to the D-League and international teams ... in Italy, Russia, Croatia, Israel; then more D-League before heading back to Spain, then a quick tour of China before finally winding up with the Raptors in 2011-12. He's won national championships in Croatia, Israel and Spain, got to the Final Four with Michigan State and won the Minnesota state high school football championship as a wide receiver..
In other words, he's a tough guy ... and a winner, which is not surprising since he was first mentored by Kevin Garnett going back to high school, when he was the MVP of KG's basketball camp. The two began a relationship back then that continued through his college and pro days, even when he was overseas and despairing of making it back to the NBA, through failed tryouts with the Lakers, the Grizzlies, the Bobcats.
"We exchanged numbers and then he was like a mentor for me," Anderson told the Toronto Sun last year. "I mean he was the BIG TICKET and he always looked after me and checked up on me. Being in high school and you’re talking to Kevin Garnett, it was like ‘That’s Kevin Garnett,’ you know what I mean?
"It showed how much of a great person he was. He was always talking to me, always kept my head, even my first year out of the NBA he was telling me I would get back, that I was an NBA player, he always stayed positive with me."
This will be the first time mentor and protege will play together. Don't be surprised to see them on the court together. Should be fun.
--Alan Anderson, we expect, will wear No. 6, as he did in Toronto. (He's also worn No. 15, at Michigan State and with the Bobcats, to honor his hero, Vince Carter, but no Net has worn that number in a while, and may not again, if you get our drift.)
--The team's current payroll, including Anderson's contract for the veteran's minimum is $102.1 million with an estimated luxury tax bill of $86.9 million, up from $83.5 million without Anderson. So Anderson cost the Nets $3.4 million in extra luxury tax plus his vets minimum salary. Andrei Kirilenko, for the record, cost $9.6 million in luxury tax ... on top of $3.2 million in salary.
--The Nets now have three players with player options next season: Andray Blatche, Kirilenko and Anderson. Grand total: $5.7 million. No team options.
--Our favorite number of the off-season: The Nets new roster had the most players in the top 25 of Player Efficiency Ratings (3) last season as well as the most in the top 50 (5) and top 75 (6). Here are the rankings for the 14 players on NBA rosters last season: Brook Lopez (5); Andray Blache (14); Deron Williams (25); Kevin Garnett (38); Paul Pierce (40); Andrei Kirilenko (67) Joe Johnson (167); Shaun Livingston (204); Reggie Evans and Jason Terry (tied at 211); Alan Anderson (218); Mirza Teletovic (255); Toko Shengelia (385) and Tyshawn Taylor (429).
--With the addition of the 30-year-old Anderson, the Nets have seven players 30 years old and older: Kevin Garnett (37); Paul Pierce and Jason Terry (both 35); Reggie Evans (33); Andrei Kirilenko and Joe Johnson (both 32); and Anderson (30) with the remaining eight under 30: Deron Williams (29); Shaun Livingston and Mirza Teletovic (both 27); Andray Blatche (26); Brook Lopez (25); Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor (both 23) and Toko Shengelia (21). Average age: 29, which will put them behind only the Heat and maybe the Lakers, depending on final moves. They're a little older than the Knicks, who were last year's oldest team, at 32+ years. (And remember, if KG was on last year's Knicks, he would have been their fifth oldest player and they won 55 games.)
Training camp invites
Michael Snaer, the 6'6" swimgman from Florida State, probably wasn't too happy with the news of Alan Anderson's signing. He was more or less competing for the spot Anderson took with a two-year guaranteed deal. Their profile is about the same: 6'6" swingman who can stroke the three and play good defense. Now, even if the Nets do a 2-for-1 deal later this summer, it's unlikely that there will be an opening at SG/SF. Snaer might be consoled by the realization that Anderson, like him, went undrafted.
So what's ahead for Snaer and whoever else gets a camp invite? Assuming they're relatively young, they will likely have a D-League option if and when they're cut. Under the CBA, the Armor has exclusive D-League rights to the last three players cut by the Nets. If they want to play in the D-League, they'll have to play in Springfield. Of course, the most you can make in the D-League is $35,000.
Snaer would seem an ideal D-League player with his four years of college experience and pro skill set -- if he can afford it. He could get more money overseas, in Europe or China, where his three-point shooting would be highly valued.
Speaking of D-League teams, we noticed this week that MSG has virtually promised to move the Knicks D-League affiliate from Erie, PA, to Nassau Coliseum if it wins the right to renovate the Uniondale complex. The Barclays Center team is promising a minor league hockey team, but no D-League team. Nets three-year hybrid agreement with Springfield Armor ends in May.
Nothing new on Bogdanovic
When Bojan Bogdanovic couldn't get out of his contract with Fenerbahce --and was wooed by their new coach, Zeljko Obradovic-- there were reports that he would be signing a new extension with the Istanbul club, one with more reasonable buyouts. Since then, Fener has been signing top European players, including Linas Kleiza, who the Nuggets amnestied. But there's been no word on Bogdanovic's extension.
The Nets still want to bring the 6'8" Croatian swingman over, particularly after trading away their picks in the Celtics trade. For them, the ideal situation would be small buyout. Under the CBA, the max the Nets can provide Fener is $575,000. If it's anything more than that, the player has to pay and he'll want a larger contract, with its attendant luxury tax payments. Bogdanovic told us back in February his buyout was 1.5 million euros or $2 million. Can't see his agent agreeing to anything close to that number again since Bogdanovic has said he wants to come over.
When and if the extension is signed, pay attention to the buyouts ... how many and how much. The Nets want more of the first and less of the second.
We've reinvigorated our Instagram account, having posted a lot of images from the press conference last week and some interesting views of Barclays Center. Hope to keep it active, along with our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.