NBA

Is Nets owner cutting side deals?

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Mikhail Prokhorov was going to spend money. The rest of the NBA knew that when the Russian billionaire purchased the Nets in 2010. They were prepared for Prokhorov to go deep into his pockets to acquire top talent, such as the trade for Joe Johnson last summer and the deal for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce last month.

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The owners aren’t entirely cool with being brazenly outspent, but it’s not illegal — except some suspect it kind of is.

With Andrei Kirilenko agreeing Thursday to play for a reported $3.1 million this season with the Nets, after opting out of a $10 million deal with the Timberwolves, representatives of other teams are starting to wonder what sort of side deals Prokhorov has arranged. It is against league rules for a team or owner to offer bonuses not laid out in players’ contracts, but many believe Prokhorov has the means and the willingness to make such side deals, Yahoo! Sports reports.

“There should be a probe,” an Eastern Conference GM told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski. “How obvious is it?”

If Prokhorov were just spending wildly within the confines of the collective bargaining agreement, that would be one thing. The Nets are due to pay $82 million in luxury taxes on their $101 million payroll this season. It’s exorbitant but not illegal.

But Prokhorov admits he made his fortune during an era of virtually zero business regulation in Russia in the 1990s. That makes rivals suspicious.

There is no evidence Prokhorov has offered Kirilenko or anyone else anything beyond the chance to win and play in the beautiful Barclays Center, but it just doesn’t smell right to some people.

“It’s not about stopping it,” an NBA owner told Wojnarowski. “It’s about punishing them if they’re doing it.”

Tagged: Timberwolves, Nets

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