Ever since the fans and the media nicknamed them the New Jersey Nyets, Andrei Kirilenko has been rumored to play for this team.
It’s an obvious link. Kirilenko is Russian, Prokhorov is Russian.
Prokhorov loves spreading Russian awareness in America. He’s proven that by doing things like Russian Culture Night at the Prudential and Barclays Center, as well as having the Nets host camps in his native land.
Prokhorov owned CSKA Moscow, Kirilenko played for CSKA Moscow.
Prokhorov owns the Nets, Kirilenko is a free agent.
I actually thought the Nets were going to get AK last season after he decided to come back to the NBA. I really liked him as a player, but I didn’t think he’d command a lot of money. He was up there in age and he hadn’t played American basketball in a few years. I knew he’d be taking a discount to sign with the Nets for the veteran’s minimum, but I didn’t think it’d be a massive one.
When he signed in Minnesota for two years, $10-million, not only was I shocked, but I thought the Nets would never get Kirilenko as long as he hadn’t torn two ACL’s.
To take a discount like this, at his age, quite frankly, is staggering.
When was the last time something like this happened? (…besides Dwight Howard’s Houston Rockets decision that happened two days ago…) This isn’t a $7-million-total discount. This is a $7-million-a-year discount. This is cutting your paycheck into thirds and throwing two of them into the garbage disposal. This is a huge leap of faith by Kirilenko to give this Nets team a shot for his services. It’s a massive, yet exciting, gamble.
Obviously when I heard the news, I was ecstatic about it. Kirilenko is a player the Nets have clearly coveted for some time and he fits right in with them. Truthfully, Kirilenko can fit in anywhere he goes. He can play and guard any position. He’s pretty much good at everything basketball-stat related. He’s a versatile defender. And even more remarkably so, he’s coming off the bench. He deserves so much more than $3.1-million. He may even deserve more than $10-million.
So the question I had to ask was ‘why?’ Why would Kirilenko take a pay cut to come to Brooklyn? Sure, maybe to took a discount to play with his friend Deron Williams or for his fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov. But a $7-million discount? To opt-out of $10-million guaranteed? That seems crazy.
Unless Kirilenko truthfully believes the Brooklyn Nets can win the NBA title.
I saw the David Aldridge tweet about a supposed sign-and-trade falling through, and while that may have factored into Kirilenko’s decision, I doubt it was the entire reason. Kirilenko, an 11-year NBA veteran thinks the Nets are onto something, and why wouldn’t he?
You could argue that adding AK-47 gives the Nets the best eight-man rotation, top to bottom, in the Eastern Conference.
You would think that having legit defenders like Kirilenko on the wing and Kevin Garnett in the post will cause huge problems for elite teams, like Miami. The Nets who couldn’t defend anyone are gone. The Nets who were mentally soft and played 3-on-5 in the playoffs are gone.
The Nets are deeper now than they’ve ever been. They are offensively and defensively more lethal than last season. They’ve constructed a roster that plays off each other perfectly. Adding Andrei Kirilenko is the neat little bow on this gift of an offseason.
I can’t wait to see this team in action. What the Nets have done over the last three years is sensational, and this Kirilenko signing is symbolic of so much more than just a guy taking a discount.
If you had told me after the 12-70 season that good basketball players would take substantially less money to play for my team, I would have said you were crazy. The Nets have done what was seemingly impossible and changed the culture completely. Billy King and company has turned this franchise from a complete laughing stock to a team that is now hated by fans. That is a thing now. People actually say: “I hate the Nets.”
I know I’m a homer, but if there is any team in the Eastern Conference that can compete with Miami, it’s the Nets. No team is deeper, more versatile and is more loaded with talent. Not the Bulls, not the Pacers, certainly not the Knicks.
And on top of that, to go to four straight NBA Finals’ has been done by only three NBA superstar players: Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Those teams were incredible.
If there was ever a year where the East was wide open, where the top four teams were as equally competitive as they’ll ever be, where strong depth, key defense and young coach innovation may be the difference in the playoffs, it’s this one.
The Nets will make up that $7-million in other ways, Andrei.