Brooklyn Boro

For Nets owner Joe Tsai, no price too high on road to Brooklyn title

October 20, 2020 John Torenli
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What more can Joe Tsai do for Brooklyn?

The Nets and New York Liberty owner has already joined with his wife, Clara, to donate millions of masks, hundreds of thousands of goggles and 2,000 ventilators to aid our borough’s residents during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The billionaire co-founder and executive vice president of Alibaba Group has also agreed to pay his Barclays Center employees through the end of the year, despite the fact that the Downtown arena has been shuttered since March.

Tsai and his wife even made a whopping $50 million donation to social justice causes back in August.

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None of those generous contributions, you’ll notice, have anything to do with the Nets directly.

But don’t worry, Brooklynites.

Tsai is just as willing to spend big on his basketball team as he is to help those in need during these turbulent and unprecedented times.

Earlier this year, when Tsai was asked whether or not he’d be willing to go above the NBA salary cap in an attempt to capture the Nets’ first-ever NBA championship and Brooklyn’s first major pro sports title since 1955, he didn’t mince words.

“We know the fans expect us to win a championship … if we pay luxury tax, so be it.” he revealed. “And the good thing is I believe that we do have the pieces in place [to win a title].”

Tsai wasn’t shy about allowing general manager Sean Marks to go on a 2019 summer spending spree that brought Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan to Brooklyn.

He also is willing to dole out whatever it takes to keep free agent sharpshooter Joe Harris here for the foreseeable future, even if that means the Nets will be more than $50 million — a humble estimate — over the projected $109.1 million cap.

“The fundamental pieces are in place to perhaps go all the way, so I’m absolutely comfortable that if we pay the luxury tax that’s fine,” the 56-year-old Tsai said.

Keeping Harris in the fold, which will likely cost Tsai about $12 million a year, and combining the ever-blossoming talents of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert with the future Hall of Fame duo of Durant and Irving makes the Nets instant contenders for the Eastern Conference crown.

Though they qualified for the playoffs for a second straight year during the league’s abbreviated season in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida this past season, the Nets were without Durant and Irving due to injury and lost Dinwiddie to a positive test for the coronavirus.

The shorthanded, makeshift roster found itself eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs for a second straight year. But Brooklyn will enter the 2021 campaign with the highest expectations, and perhaps the highest payroll, in team history.

All of the excitement surrounding the Nets springs from Tsai, who has already made the Liberty residents of Barclays Center and plans to see his Nets raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy a time or two while Durant and Irving are here.

Of course he can’t go out and play for them, nor can he tell neophyte head coach Steve Nash how to lead them.

But the one thing Tsai can do and has proved he is willing to do going forward is spend whatever it takes to make the Nets the best team in the sport and provide Brooklynites with a bit of comfort during one of the most disquieting eras in our nation’s history.

Brooklyn’s flashpoint for protests and demonstrations, Barclays Center is also donating food to our borough’s residents during these trying times. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Nothing But Net: Barclays Center has become Brooklyn’s buzz point for those looking to demonstrate and those hoping to get out and vote in November, and now it’s a place to get fed. Over the weekend, the Tsai-owned arena donated 14,000 pounds of food to City Harvest, Food Bank for New York City and The Campaign Against Hunger. “This donation consisted of frozen, ready-to-cook proteins, various snacks, water, juices and more, and will help the organizations collectively feed approximately thousands of New Yorkers,” according to a Barclays Center-issued release. Throughout the pandemic, Barclays Center has helped to feed more than 30,000 in-need New Yorkers. The arena has partnered with Food Bank for New York City to host four pop-up food pantries on the plaza. Also, back in March, Barclays Center donated 12,000 pounds of food and non-alcoholic beverages to City Harvest.

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