When free agent Andrei Kirilenko went from chasing contracts that paid as much as $10 million annually to accepting a $3.2 million per year deal with the Brooklyn Nets this offseason, eyebrows were raised. How could he sacrifice $7 million per season?
Without any insider information, an easy answer was looking at the Nets' owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and citing a conspiracy theory. But Kirilenko told reporters on a conference call Thursday there's nothing but humor in the rumors, reports ESPN New York.
"As I said, those type of rumors, I can't control," Kirilenko said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "I guess it comes from the history of Russia and the KGB. I don't know what that is, what it makes people think. It makes it a little funny, but if it looks funny in those situations, what can I do?"
Kirilenko opted out of a $10 million deal to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves for another year and on the free agent market appeared to be looking for a similar contract that spanned multiple years. The San Antonio Spurs had in-depth conversations with the versatile forward regarding a contract worth $8 million per year, but the two sides couldn't coax the Timberwolves to work out a sign-and-trade, Yahoo! Sports reported -- the Spurs didn't have the salary-cap space to outright sign Kirilenko on such a large deal.
Instead, the Nets signed Kirilenko to the taxpayer's mid-level exception and now Brooklyn's salary total is upwards of $102 million, or $16 million more than the second-highest team salary.
The reasoning on Kirilenko's end is obvious to him. The Nets had already acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a trade from the Boston Celtics, and the opportunity to immediately challenge for a title on the NBA's most pricey roster was too good to pass up.