Mikhail Prokhorov, Brooklyn Nets Must Learn You Can't Buy Success in Today's NBA

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov addresses the media regarding the firing of Avery Johnson at halftime of the game between the Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Isn't it about time Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets experience that awkward moment when they realize the NBA isn't the MLB?

Yeah, I think so too. But apparently they don't know that, as the capped-out Nets continue to chase expensive names.

Per Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, Brooklyn is now pessimistic about its chances of landing either Ben Gordon of the Charlotte Bobcats or Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks

The Nets again won't have Deron Williams when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, and it's also looking as if they won't have Josh Smith or Ben Gordon by the time the NBA's trading deadline passes in eight days.

According to league sources familiar with the Nets thinking, they're still searching to add a big man, but don't believe that they are going to wind up with Smith or Gordon, despite having recent trade talks with Atlanta and Charlotte.

Are the Nets suddenly brimming with common sense? Have they finally realized they don't have any valuable assets? Are they about to shift their focus to this current group and/or more realistic targets?

That doesn't sound like Prokhorov or anyone who sets up shop in the Barclays Center.

Because it isn't:

Still, the Nets are focusing on Utah's Paul Millsap or another power forward to add by the trading deadline. The Nets and Jazz have been trading partners in the past, highlighted by the Nets' bold move to get Williams at the 2011 mid-season deadline.

There it is. That we-can-get-anything-we-want-as-long-as-we-have-cash attitude. The same attitude that isn't as valuable in this league as it once was.

Once upon a time, the NBA was arguably a place where price was hardly an object. Where the rich could trade for big-money players and not think twice about it.

But then the evil stepmother of CBAs came along and taxed teams prepared to spend over the salary cap to the high heavens. And it changed everything.

From small markets to gargantuan-sized ones, from the beggarly teams to the opulent factions, all have become more conscious of their financial decisions.

Well, almost.

Brooklyn has more than $87 million in salary on the books this season and nearly $90 million next year—to just nine players. The league minimum is 12, so that number is bound only to climb.

And it's a number that Sam Amick of USA Today notes will climb even higher if the Nets acquire yet another big-name player: 

Despite the bleak picture painted in last week's story about the forthcoming tax and what it will mean for all 30 teams, it appears Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will forge ahead with his blank-check policy for now. Never mind the fact that they're already in line for a major tax payment next season that will grow even if they don't add another big-name player – $22.6 million with the nine players currently under contract (12 is the minimum) and an overall price tag of $108.1 million.

Never mind that the Nets don't have the assets necessary to acquire another star. Instead, let's say they do. Suppose teams are willing to accept a package of Kris Humphries and Marshon Brooks for a star-esque player like Smith or Millsap. What then?

Prokhorov is forced to pony up even more dough, that's what.

This isn't so much a rant on how poor a roster the Nets have assembled. Brooklyn is a good team. It hasn't proved to be great, but it is good. So the need for change is understandable.

But how much is Prokhorov willing to pay to get from good to maybe great?

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are untouchable at this point, and Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson's massive pacts aren't going anywhere. In other words, any deal the Nets make for a big-name guy (if they could make one at all) is going to add salary, and with that, a heavier tax penalty.

Right now, with only nine players on the roster for next season, Brooklyn is roughly $20 million over the current luxury-tax line of $70 million. Under the new CBA, that means the Nets will owe about $45 million in tax, bringing their grand total to actually $135 million—for only nine players. 

Brooklyn is going to get slammed with luxury taxes no matter what. Adding a player they would have to hand out a max contract to and thus increase their salary cap by a few million or so would only add insult to an already financially fatal injury.

The Nets can try to scoff at the teams that have already broken up over the prospect of such penalties, but the dangers here are very real. 

It's not just small-market teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies that are severing ties. The New York Knicks didn't retain Jeremy Lin (at least partly) because of the financial ramifications, and the Miami Heat have some decisions to make leading into the 2014-15 season if they don't want to incur the wrath of the dreaded "repeater tax." Even the Los Angeles Lakers have positioned themselves for financial stability after next season. 

Prokhorov and company are no more immune to this dilemma than any other team. He's certainly got the cash to back his expensive taste now, but when James Dolan and Jerry Buss become conscious of their future spending, you know it's serious.

Most importantly there's also no guarantee shelling out even more green makes any difference. The Nets thought they had a contender in this group, a convocation that's expensive enough. Increasing the price of this product doesn't promise anything except a greater financial burden.

This is the nature of today's NBA beast. Teams can't overspend or take on too much and assume they can afford the luxury-tax penalties. Because they can't. No one can.

I don't care how loaded you are, no owner will admit to spending $135-plus million and then be content with an early playoff exit. They wouldn't even be satisfied with a deep run. Can Prokhorov honestly say he's content with spending nearly $100 million on the fifth-seeded Nets?

Of course not. At that cost, it's a championship or bust. 

And even then, from a financial aspect, the price for a title just might not be worth it.

But that's the reality of today's NBA. The same actuality Prokhorov and the Nets have yet to acknowledge.

Because they're still living in the past.


All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.


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