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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 2

Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help fans get ready for ... whatever.

Are things turning around? Can stability return?

A player’s surgery hardly qualifies as good news, but in the case of Ben Simmons, it did seem to settle things down ... a bit. Simmons had a physical issue of long standing which is now being corrected. Good for him. So much of what was hurled at him after he was declared out of Game 4 now seems a bit over the top.

Nothing much new elsewhere. Kevin Durant made appearances in support of ex-teammate and friend Mike James in Monaco and Athens. Kyrie Irving spoke on a podcast affiliated with KD’s ventures and other than Seth Curry making back-to-back courtside appearances at Game 3 of the Sixers-Heat series and Liberty opener, that was that.

Hopefully, that will continue.

How much would Joe Tsai pay in luxury taxes?

It’s as good a question as you’ll ask this off-season. The Nets have a lot of costly decisions to make this summer, starting with Kyrie Irving but also including Nic Claxton, Bruce Brown and possibly Patty Mills. Tsai will pay out around $96 million in luxury taxes when the NBA comes calling the first week of July. Pretty big check to cut after such a disappointing season. Also, a franchise record paid out in 2014 after another disappointing season.

So what do we know at this point?

Back before last season, NetsDaily spoke with Tsai about his willingness to pay the luxury tax. He responded forcefully.

“Do you think that is still a question?” Tsai joked. “I mean I did pay luxury tax last season. This season, it’s all public information, I’ll be paying over $100 million in luxury tax. “So the answer is yes, yes, I’m committed and I’m committed for the long haul.”

Tsai told NetsDaily that while the tax may seem onerous, he sees it as more of an investment than a straight loss. It’s a way to improve the value of the team — and gain “respect” in the league equal to some of the legacy franchises. Moreover, he contended that if you subtract the cost of the luxury tax, the Nets are making a profit.

Tsai specifically mentioned that he’s willing to pay the dreaded repeater tax which would up his tax bill substantially if, as is assumed, the Nets go over the luxury tax threshold in three out of four years, he could pay four dollars in tax for every dollar Nets spend for salaries. That tax will start to be assessed in in 2023-24.

Indeed, even by conservative estimates, Tsai could pay up to $1 billion in salaries and tax payments to the league over the next five years.

So that’s one datapoint.

Here’s the next one. The day before the Nets played Game 4, Adrian Wojnarowski went on ESPN Game Day with Mike Greenberg to discuss the big decisions facing the Nets this summer. Here’s what he said about luxury taxes.

“They’re going to be approaching next year $345 and $350 million next year,” said Woj talking about the combination of salary and taxes. “That’s where Golden State is at this year: the highest salary and luxury tax payments in the league. Brooklyn is going to be in that neighborhood if they keep this team together.”

That’s $15 million more than colleague Bobby Marks estimated in his off-season preview. Woj’s information may be more up to date. The night before he spoke on ESPN, Woj and Sean Marks spoke for about 45 minutes pre-game. They didn’t try to hide things. They sat courtside. The media on hand noticed...

We would never suggest who a reporter’s source might be, but as Marc Stein wrote of the relationship at time, Woj is “purported to know as much about the Nets as anyone outside the organization’s walls,”

Whatever. Still, that has to count as a second datapoint.

Okay, moving on: We now have a number, a fairly specific one, in fact, on what the Nets payroll is likely to be plus luxury taxes of 2022-23, courtesy of Woj. Can we work backwards from that to get what Tsai will pay in luxury taxes? Yep, we asked Yossi Gozlan, Hoopshype’s renown capologist, to help us in this exercise.

He made some assumptions, here and there, things like what Nic Claxton and Bruce Brown might get in salary, like the Nets would use the full $6.4 million taxpayers MLE, like they’d keep the pick ... and like they’d try to get Patty Mills to stay another year. You might quibble on what free agents would get but Gozlan’s spreadsheet laid it out pretty, pretty good...

Now, things will change. That’s a given, but this snapshot of the Nets projects that Tsai would wind up paying $157.9 million. Only the Warriors have paid more.

“Assuming the Nets use the taxpayer MLE they’ll likely get to $100 million,” he told us. “Bringing back Brown and Claxton on top of that could tack on another $100 million if they don’t trim payroll elsewhere.”

Of course, the Nets have a reputation of being among the most active and aggressive in the NBA. How much of an overhaul will we see? No specifics but it seems safe to suggest that the continuity will have a higher priority this season. All that said, if the number is $345 million to $350 million, as Woj suggested, then the taxes will be around $150 million.

Interestingly, the Nets luxury tax bill for this year dropped precipitously since last summer. Before the flurry of moves last August, highlighted by the Spencer Dinwiddie trade, Gozlan notes the tax bill was around $130 million, dropping to $110 million before the trade deadline. The James Harden-for-Ben Simmons trade cut it another $15 million or so. Nets officials insist that the savings can and will be used elsewhere.

Finally, Tsai has also noted that he is willing to pay for a championship contender. If things don’t go well next season, things might change. Of course, a lot of things would change in that scenario.

Special thanks to Yossi Gozlan for taking the time to help us out.

Kevin Durant and Mike James on the European circuit

Last week, we mentioned that Kevin Durant had traveled to Monaco to support Mike James, former teammate and still friend Mike James. And yes, we are going to subject to this video to end all videos one more time.

Turns out he continued his fandom in Athens Wednesday when James and A.C. Monaco faced Olympiacos in the game that would decide which one would head to Belgrade, Serbia, for the Euroleague Final Four later this month. A.C. Monaco lost but KD seemed to have a grand old time, tweeting out this Greek fireworks ritual...

He was loudly booed but was into it. He even sat with the fans.

Olympiacos Piraeus v AS Monaco - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Play Off Game Five Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Olympiacos Piraeus v AS Monaco - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Play Off Game Five Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Signed some autographs along the way...

AS Monaco v Olympiacos Piraeus - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Play Off Game Four Photo by Alfonso Cannavacciuolo/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

And generally got very into it, both during the game in Athens...

And afterwards...

(Admit it, this is the content you come here for.)

As for James, on Sunday morning, he tweet that his future remains uncertain. He didn’t dismiss the question when asked by a Nets fan if he might be returning to the NBA...

James by the way is now the highest scoring American in Euroleague history with more than 3,000 points.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

The Nets will have Julian Champagnie of St. John’s in for a workout this week. Despite their uncertain draft situation, they’re still bringing players to HSS Training Center in Sunset Park, hoping to find that diamond in the rough, either at No. 23 or after the last name is called. It won’t a long drive from the 6’8” wing. He’s a native of Staten Island who grew up in Brooklyn and went to Bishop Loughlin, the high school nearest Barclays Center.

Champagnie, after averaging 19.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, is currently mocked as a deep second rounder or undrafted. It’s a place where the Nets have found some solid contributors in the recent past, whether Nic Claxton in the second round or Theo Pinson and David Duke among the undrafted. (More on Pinson below.)

With 3-and-D skills, the 20-year-old is the kind of player, whether taken in the draft or not, will likely wind up in Las Vegas for summer league, then training camp before heading off to a G League affiliate. He’ll have to prove himself, but he’s already familiar with some NBA rituals. His twin brother, Justin is currently on the Toronto Raptors.

Here’s some video from his St. John’s junior season,

Gotta root for him whether Nets acquire him or not. He’s local. He’s Brooklyn.

The value of chemistry ... and fun

The Nets didn’t even wait till the end of the 2018 NBA Draft to call Theo Pinson to offer him a spot on their summer league roster. They thought that highly of the North Carolina product, known for his defense and his leadership role in the Tar Heels national championship a year earlier. Roy Williams also loved to golf with Pinson.

During his two years with the Nets, he was the bench sparkplug leading all those dances as the Nets drove to their playoff spot in four years. Never mind that he finished dead last in some offensive ratings for season ... in the NBA. He was a fan and teammate favorite, as ESPN noted this week, quoting Spencer Dinwiddie, his teammate in Brooklyn and now Dallas.

“Theo is the best hype man, culture guy, whatever you want to call it in the NBA,” said Dinwiddie, “I’ve been in the NBA eight years. I’ve been on, what, five teams or something like that — Theo is the best [teammate].

“I’ll take him on a team any day. The mood is instantly lighter. It’s instantly better. You’re going through some tough times, he’s going to make you laugh. You’re going through some good times, he’s going to make you feel great.”

Pinson is ineligible for the playoffs. He was a two-way signing but he’s organized the Mavericks bench like he organized the Nets.

And so, when you start typing up Nets needs for next season, don’t forget “chemistry guy” along with “athletic wing” and “back-up big.” It matters a lot.

Telling Twitter Likes

Ben Simmons retweeted this tweet...

Blake Griffin liked this tweet...

Futbol Nets

With Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s acquisition of a piece of the NY/NJ Gotham, the National Women’s Soccer League team, the number of investments in soccer and lacrosse increased.

Durant also owns a piece of the Philadelphia Union of the MLS, a savvy pick-up considering the Union’s rise since he bought in. His head coach, Steve Nash, owns a piece of the Vancouver White Caps of the MLS and RCD Mallorca in Spain. Joe Tsai is an investor in the LAFC of the MLS.

That’s just soccer. Tsai and Nash, along with their fellow Canadian Wayne Gretzky, are co-owners of the Las Vegas Desert Dogs of the National Lacrosse League as we noted last week. And Tsai already owns the San Diego Seals of the NLL. You can do that in an emerging sport.

And as we reported last year, KD and Kleiman are also involved in the renovation of Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, once home to the Baltimore Bullets of the NBA. Once completed early next year, expect it to book a broader sports mix.

Final Note

Good to see Joe and Clara Wu Tsai two of their three children at Barclays Center Saturday night for the WNBA opener of their New York Liberty.

One or both of the Tsais are now a common fixture at Nets and Liberty games. She has long been a familiar face courtside while he was at a number of the Nets big games at season’s end and in the first round. He is by no means an absentee owner despite having residences in Hong Kong and San Diego. Same with Clara. Of course with all that money invested in the teams, it’s a smart business move as well as a basketball one.

And Happy Mother’s Day!