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.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”