The Brooklyn Nets’ unprecedented offseason spending spree continued Tuesday by agreeing to terms with starting power forward Kris Humphries on a two-year, $24 million contract, according to sources.
The 24-year-old Humphries averaged a double-double (13.8 points, 11 rebounds) last season for the Nets, finishing fifth in the league in rebounds per game and displaying his talents for scoring without plays being called and keeping possessions alive with his ability to hit the offensive boards. He looked like he’d be a cap casualty earlier in free agency as Brooklyn spent lavishly on keeping Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez, and took on the remaining $89 million of Joe Johnson‘s contract in a trade with the Hawks. But sources indicated last weekend that Humphries was likely to return to the Nets rather than accept a contract offer from the Charlotte Bobcats.
Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a billionaire and one of the world’s richest men, but his outlay this month has been stunning, even in the max contract world of the NBA. Prokhorov has okayed a $98 million contract for Williams, assuring the Nets would retain their franchise player; a $60 million extension for Lopez, a $40 million extension for Wallace, $24 million for Humphries, the aforementioned $89 million for Johnson, $9.5 million for European forward Mirza Teletovic, $5 million for free-agent forward Reggie Evans (acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Clippers), and $2.5 million for free agent guard C.J. Watson. Including a veteran minimum deal for guard Jerry Stackhouse, the Nets have committed somewhere in the neighborhood of $330 million in new deals since the start of the free agent period July 1.
The Nets were players for Orlando’s Dwight Howard for the last year, with Howard insisting Brooklyn was the only place to where he wanted to be traded or sign a contract extension. But after re-signing Lopez, who was expected to be the centerpiece of any trade offer the Nets made to Orlando for Howard, Brooklyn will have to wait months to be able to make a pitch. The Nets cannot trade Lopez under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement until Jan. 15. The Magic have been talking to other teams about Howard in the interim, with the Rockets aggressively pursuing Howard even though he’s said he wouldn’t re-sign in Houston if traded there.
But if Howard is still in Orlando in January, Humphries’ contract would be a significant potential trade chip. The Nets had been talking about a three-year contract for Humphries, but by basically giving him the same amount in two years, his deal becomes much more palatable to a team like Orlando, which wants short contracts for veterans and young players on rookie deals, along with Draft picks, for Howard.
In the interim, however, the Nets have put together a very strong rotation as they move to Brooklyn and begin play at the Barclays Center next fall. The trade for Johnson, a six-time All-Star, was the tipping point for Williams to decide to return rather than go to his hometown of Dallas and play for the Mavericks. The Nets gambled that they’d be able to keep Wallace after trading what became the number six pick overall for him, and won. After getting Humphries back, the Nets will probably sign one more free agent — a backup center — and then try to start making Prokhorov’s money back.