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Ken Berger says finances ruling Brooklyn Nets future

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets are not exactly playing the role of piker this season. Their payroll will top $90 million and as long as they don't engineer a series of salary dumps at the deadline, their luxury taxes will exceed $35 million. If they don't make big moves, then the Nets luxury tax bill for their three year stay in Brooklyn will top $135 million.

Ken Berger, however, thinks finances are ruling the Nets thinking, not exactly a new argument, but argues it's probably a long term plan.

He cites the decision to dump Paul Pierce four months ago as bullet point no. 1 in his argument  It's something others have noted before but Berger adds some other details and caveats. For example, Berger thinks that the Nets, with their new coach, a healthy Deron Williams and a vocal Joe Johnson, may very well make up for Pierce's loss.  (He does mention Bojan Bogdanovic, who is is Pierce's replacement but doesn't note that the rookie is off to a better start this season than Pierce was last season or is this season ... and is 12 years younger.)

Also, Berger concedes one of ownership and management's arguments about Pierce's future viability but with an asterisk. He admits Pierce "can no longer guard athletic small forwards consistently, making him a serious liability when paired with the Nets' backcourt," before quickly adding, "as opposed to the Wizards' more nimble (John) Wall and (Bradley) Beal."

He also hints of an intriguing detail about the Nets - Celtic trade...

[T]he deal cost the Nets three first-round picks -- two to acquire the aging Garnett and Pierce and one to incentivize Celtics president Danny Ainge to absorb the final three years and $30 million of Gerald Wallace's contract.

His main point, though, is to rebut Nets ownership's argument that the decision to let Pierce go was primarily a basketball decision. He sees it mainly being about money...

Signing Pierce to a deal comparable to the two-year pact he secured with the Wizards would've cost the Nets nearly $60 million -- about $12 million in salary and $48 million in luxury and repeater taxes. The tax bill alone amounts to what a younger, more able-bodied free agent would cost for four years.

And he argues, why not keep Pierce if, as Mikhail Prokhorov argued last week, the team's losses are  "not a big deal?"

He also wonders if Prokhorov might sell, despite his and others' assurances to the media --and Adam Silver-- that he wants to retain control of the team. It's frankly a bit confusing unless he's hinting without details that Prokhorov is facing a cash shortage.  His bottom line question is, What of the Nets? and he admits that short term, things might work, but "Prokhorov's master plan has been scaled back a bit" mainly for financial reasons.