The Brooklyn Nets’ power trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving will combine to make over $120 million during the 2021-22 NBA season. In short, they can buy pretty much anything they want outside of a sports franchise or a trip to space.
One could understand if any of those three, or even another highly-paid superstar like LeBron James, would want to save their money when possible. However, the Nets’ attempts at lending a financial hand to their three All-Stars could come back to severely haunt the franchise.
The Nets reportedly paid for homes for their stars’ girlfriends and partners
If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during the Nets’ attempts to buy a championship, you’re out of luck. Unless, of course, you can learn to become a shapeshifter.
Matt Sullivan didn’t morph into any type of insect, but he did write Can’t Knock The Hustle after spending the 2019-20 season embedded with the Nets. While promoting the book, Sullivan shared everything ranging from Durant’s love of smoking marijuana to how the team dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
Sullivan’s newest admission, which he recently shared on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, might be the most significant. He alleged a “very high-ranking official with the Nets” told him the organization used its own money to help players with any off-court activities, including buying a girlfriend “a house in California for a week.” Players could also bring women who were not their wife or girlfriend.
“These guys don’t pay for a lot of personal stuff themselves. And so, the financial team of the Nets would kind of come every week or so; they’d be like, ‘OK, we thought we had this under control. We’ve got to redo the budgets every week.’ And they were like it was just a new thing every damn time.”Matt Sullivan
Sullivan did not specify which, if any, of the team’s players took advantage of the Nets’ offer. As of publication, the Nets had not publicly addressed his allegations.
The NBA could eventually investigate the Nets for salary cap circumvention
Some basketball fans will naturally laugh at the idea of a team using its own money for players and their girlfriends to get away for a week. The NBA might not share the same glee, however.
According to NBC Sports, the current collective bargaining agreement “restricts player compensation to only terms specified in uniform contracts.” The Nets, for example, could not legally buy Irving a house in New Jersey. He, of course, could use the money in his contract to buy the home.
As with anything, there are gray areas and loopholes. Sticking with the house example, the league might not raise an eyebrow if a Nets executive, moving from one New Jersey town to another, sold their home to Irving at a reasonable price.
If the NBA investigates the Nets for circumventing the salary cap and using their own money in the way the team is alleged of doing, the league can eventually strip the team of draft picks. The NBA also has the power to void contracts of players linked to circumventing the salary cap, although that would be an extreme measure.
Every action has a reaction, and an investigation could prove significant for all professional sports franchises. Players have the power, yes, but there might need to be a revamping of the structure and how much control they have or are offered.
Things are not going to end well for the Nets’ power trio
Even after losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Nets will enter the 2021-22 season as favorites to win their first championship.
Still, fans should be wary of how much the Nets will realistically do with their current trio of Durant, Harden, and Irving. All have battled injuries in recent years, and the group only played eight regular-season games together this season. It didn’t help that Irving left the team at one point and missed time while in COVID-19 protocols.
At best, this team will win the NBA Finals once but deal with the ramifications for years to come. The Nets traded several young assets, including center Jarrett Allen, and gave up on others to put together a power trio of three veteran stars.
The worst-case scenario, and perhaps the most realistic, is the Nets will fail to buy a championship. Durant and Irving will continue battling injuries, and the Nets will be a playoff contender each year, but never one that even makes it past the second round.
But, at least those players and their girlfriends may have enjoyed a weekend in California on the Nets’ dime. That would all be worth it, right?