Yesterday, Andrei Kirilenko opted out of his 2013-14 contract with the Timberwolves ($10 million and a first-round playoff exit) in order to sign with the Nets ($3.1 million and a second-round playoff exit). This, naturally, leads to all sorts of questions.
What the hell? being the most obvious. An easy and nefarious answer lies with Kirilenko's countryman and new boss, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who made his fortune in Russia during a time when regulations didn't exist. So it's sort of natural to wonder if Prokhorov didn't promise Kirilenko a little something on the side, maybe 225 million руб or so.
Some NBA execs are wondering this aloud. From Woj:
"Brazen," one Western Conference GM told Yahoo! Sports.
"Let's see if the league has any credibility," one NBA owner told Yahoo! Sports. "It's not about stopping it. It's about punishing them if they're doing it."
Another Eastern Conference GM: "There should be a probe. How obvious is it?"
There's maybe a whiff of xenophobia about these suspicions. Plenty of NBA owners come in with checkered business histories. Race-discriminating, sexual-harrassing ogre Donald Sterling didn't receive the third degree when he convinced Blake Griffin to sign without heading to free agency. No one questioned whether tax-dodging Micky Arison slipped LeBron some cash under the table to sign at a discount.
And it's worth noting that the only current owner to be busted for an illegal secret contract came from the least ethical industry around, less ethical than even Russian privatization-riding buccaneer billionaire: state-level American politician.
Maybe Kirilenko chose Brooklyn over Minneapolis because he wants to live somewhere with a decent amount of Russian speakers. Maybe he wanted to play with Deron Williams again. There are all sorts of plausible explanations that don't require Prokhorov to take a page from Karla. The fact that Prokhorov can't sign a 32-year-old backup without bringing down the wrath of the other owners indicates less about his methods than it does about how threatened they're feeling these days.