The Nets decision to pass on Paul Pierce has led to a great deal of skepticism about their commitment to win it all, although privately, team officials say they are still about building a "super franchise" just becoming more "financially responsible." And no, they are not selling.
Mike Mazzeo has taken out his calculator, consulted ShamSports and Larry Coon's CBAFAQ, and examined just how much they are paying ... and examined as well the record of the man seen as the architect of the Nets strategy, Billy King. It's a rich three-parter, but the bottom line is that this year's combined payroll and luxury tax bill will total about$128 million, or $34,8 million, staggering amounts but still $65 million less than this past season.
It's not as if they have stopped spending money entirely or, absent the Pierce decision, dumped salary. They've invested in a $45 million in a new, state-of-the-art practice facility and agreed to pay Lionel Hollins twice what they paid Jason Kidd. His assistants will cost more millions. The payroll part of the calculation, at a projected $93.5 million once everyone is signed will again likely to be the highest in the NBA, just not as high as last year's $102.8 million.
Defending themselves, Nets executives call the Pierce business a basketball decision, that they want to regain flexibility, give youth a chance, etc. They believe that the "core" or Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, if healthy (the team's new mantra, replacing "It's a process"), can be "competitive" in the East. Pundits disagree. Whatever.
Of King, Mazzeo says the pressure is on. It will be up to him and Hollins to make sure the team IS competitive.