Report: NBA investigation clears Nets’ signing of Andrei Kirilenko
The NBA has reportedly uncovered no wrongdoing after investigating the Nets’ summer signing of free-agent forward Andrei Kirilenko.
The New York Post reports that an NBA probe found no foul play after Kirilenko signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract with Brooklyn after opting out of the final year of his contract with Minnesota, which was set to pay him $10.2 million next season.
Rivals owners and executives intimated under-the-table deals existed between Kirilenko and Russian countryman Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets’ billionaire owner. At least one owner – possibly more – complained to the league.
“When there is a formal complaint, the league will look into it,” said one league official who spoke in generalities and refused comment on the Kirilenko issue.
The league launched its investigation, questioning participants. Nets officials were summoned — at one point on a weekend, usually a time off in the summer for league execs.
“It was a very, very thorough investigation,” one source maintained. “They checked everything.”
Kirilenko’s new deal includes a player option for the 2014-15 season; Brooklyn signed the Russian forward using its mini mid-level exception.
The Point Forward handed out a rare “A+” grade to the Nets’ deal with Kirilenko in July, noting at the time that its favorable terms immediately prompted Twitter speculation about some sort of under-the-table deal from fans and observers. Yahoo! Sports later quoted executives within the league questioning its legitimacy and calling for a probe. Kirilenko denied any malfeasance when he was introduced to the media after signing on the dotted line.
“Those type of rumors I can’t control,” Kirilenko told reporters during a conference call, according to the New York Daily News. “I guess it comes from the history because of the Russian KGB. It makes it a little funny. What can I do? … I understand the money is not that great; it’s not what I could have made. But if you take a look at the situation, I’m not sure if 10 years ago I would have taken this. But right now, it’s really the best option possible — to take a legit chance to win the trophy.”
Kirilenko has earned more than $101 million in NBA salary in his career but has advanced to the conference finals just once in his career.
Prokhorov, who will shell out more than $102 million in salary and tens of millions more in luxury tax penalties this year, also denied any side deal earlier this summer.
“Old stereotypes, they’re very hard to beat and to break,” Prokhorov said, according to the New York Post. “I respect all the NBA rules and we play by the NBA rules. But I want just to stress again, like with [the] luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win [a] championship, but under the NBA rules. Please make no mistake about this.”
Kirilenko, 32, averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the Timberwolves last year after spending the 2011-12 season playing in Russia.
A long, versatile defender, Kirilenko will fit in beautifully on a veteran-dominated Nets roster with title aspirations. Known for his activity level but not his range on offense, Kirilenko is a box-score stuffer who spent the first 10 seasons of his career with Utah, where he earned an All-Star nod in 2004 and three All-Defensive team selections.
Prokhorov was a key financial backer of CSKA Moscow for more than a decade, using his personal wealth to transform the Russian club into an international power. Kirilenko played for CSKA Moscow during the 2011 lockout and from 1998 to 2001 before he made the leap to the NBA.