Mikhail Prokhorov Introductory Press Conference

What luxury tax? Nets new payroll massive because owner not concerned.

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Let’s run through the Nets starting five and their salaries for next season:

Point guard Deron Williams, $17.2 million; shooting guard Joe Johnson $19.8 million; Gerald Wallace $9 million; Kris Humphries $12 million; Brook Lopez $13.7 million.

That is $71.7 million, not counting incentives some players may hit. That is with a salary cap of $58 million and a luxury tax threshold of $70.3 million. That’s not counting Mirza Teletovic at $3 million, Reggie Evans at $1.6 million, MarShon Brooks at $1.2 million or any salary from the other six or so guys needed to fill out the roster.

And every one of those starters will make more next season.

There is a new luxury tax looming in a couple years, a punitive one that has teams scared. The more over the tax line you are, the higher the tax rate. If you’re over the tax line three years in a row, you pay fines on top of the tax. Look at it this way, the Lakers $16 million dollar-for-dollar tax this season would have cost them $52 million in 2015.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t care. The Russian billionaire made more money in interest since you started reading this article than you will all year. Plus for him, owning the Nets is part of a larger real estate deal around the arena — the Brooklyn Yards project — that will make him a lot more money. If the Nets are a draw but a loss-leader in that equation, so what?

Prokhorov knew he needed a better team to open the Barclay’s center and told GM Billy King to go out and buy one.

You can justify each an every one of these signings individually. Williams is one of the best point guards in the league and the team’s franchise player. Johnson is still an All-Star point guard and his level of talent was needed to make sure Williams didn’t bolt for Dallas. Gerald Wallace is pretty good at both ends of the floor. The Nets needed a big man and Lopez had other teams ready to step in and give him a max deal, so to keep him that was the price.

As for Humphries, yes he is overpaid at $12 million a year but with a short two-year deal he is still a trade chip the Nets can try to use to get Dwight Howard after Jan. 15 (the soonest they can move any of the players they re-signed this summer).

But man, together that is one healthy tax bill coming due. That new, harsher CBA and luxury tax really only matter if an owner is concerned about the bottom line of that team by itself. Prokhorov is in it for a bigger picture.

Watch DeMarcus Cousins swat James Harden in his first game with the Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins answers questions from the media as the New Orleans Pelicans announce that they've acquired him along with forward Omri Casspi during a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 in Metairie, La.  Cousins maintained  that he liked Sacramento and initially wasn't happy about being traded Sunday night, but added he'd become frustrated with the lack of another elite talent on the Kings' roster.  (Ted Jackson /NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)
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DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and the New Orleans Pelicans will take some time to mesh together. In his first game with New Orleans, Cousins saw a difficult opponent and massive deficits against the Houston Rockets. But there was some glimmers of hope.

Cousins, for example, had a productive statistical evening. The former Sacramento King put up 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks — just one swat shy of the rare 5 x 5.

Plus, he had this sweet block on Rockets star James Harden:

The Pelicans lost to the Rockets, 129-99, but it’s going to be fun to watch New Orleans battle it out for the 8th seed in the West.

Kristaps Porzingis injures ankle, leaves Cavaliers game in walking boot

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New York Knicks star big man Kristaps Porzingis left Thursday night’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a sprained right ankle. He could be seen limping back to the locker room late in the second quarter, and reports after the game saw Porzingis in a walking boot.

That’s a major bummer for Knicks fans.

Porzingis, 21, dealt with a left Achilles issue earlier in the season and no doubt would like to remain on the court for the Knicks full-time to close the season.

Then again, it’s important to keep in mind that walking boots can be precautionary, especially as a team plays away from home. New York heads back home tonight and will play Philadelphia on Saturday, so there should be plenty of time for the Knicks to get their full medical staff working on assessing and treating Porzingis.

It’s not as though the Knicks were primed for a late-season run at just 23-35, but there will be less for New York fans to watch for with their best player off the floor.

After trading for DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans release Terrence Jones

AUBURN HILLS, MI - FEBRUARY 01: Terrence Jones #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans gets off a shot next to Aron Baynes #12 of the Detroit Pistons during the first period at the Palace of Auburn Hills on February 1, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Terrence Jones is no longer a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. The University of Kentucky product was removed from the team roster on Thursday after head coach Alvin Gentry said there just wasn’t enough minutes to go around after the team traded for DeMarcus Cousins.

The Pelicans roster now houses a frontcourt with most of the minutes going to Cousins, Anthony Davis, Donatas Motiejunas, Dante Cunningham, and Solomon Hill.

Gentry, via Nola.com:

“We released him because, obviously, if you look at the bigs situation we have now and there was not going to be a whole lot of minutes,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. “He wants to play. Obviously, he’s going to be a guy in a contract year and things like that, so we thought it was best to let him go.”

Jones, 25, was playing nearly 25 minutes per-game for New Orleans. While he was having a productive year, he wasn’t close to the kind of efficient numbers he put up early in his career with the Houston Rockets.

That said, Jones could be a potential candidate to bolster the frontline of a playoff team, so look for some action around him sooner rather than later.

Charles Barkley swears on live TV, says Spike Lee is “dying to get kicked out of the Garden”

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Charles Barkley has a tendency to say some pretty wild stuff, but he’s typically guarded as a TV professional when it comes to swearing. Apparently the heat of the moment got the better of him on Thursday night as he was talking during the matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks.

Speaking about New York, Barkley accidentally let fly with a not-for-primetime word on live television as he discussed Spike Lee and the overall mood around the team.

Via Twitter (NSFW obviously):

In case you can’t hear that, Barkley said (in part):

“I was talking to Spike Lee at All-Star Weekend, he’s dying to get kicked out of the Garden. He don’t wanna watch this s–t.”

The TNT crew then razzed on him for committing the cardinal sin of live TV.