NBA PM: Nets Prepared to ‘Crush’ Mavs for D-Will
It’s strange that a mediocre Swedish actor could cast the indelible image of the Russian male in the third sequel to a classic American film. Such stereotypes are consequences of globalization, but that didn’t stop Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov from having a laugh on Tuesday in Brooklyn.
While visiting the Barclays Center construction site—where the Nets will begin playing in 2012-2013—Prokhorov was asked if he was confident he could hold off a challenge from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and re-sign All-Star point guard Deron Williams this summer. Naturally, Prokhorov referenced Rocky IV antagonist Ivan Drago (as played by Sweden’s Dolph Lungren) and his own reputation as a martial arts enthusiast in his response.
“Let the best man win,” Prokhorov said. “If he wins, I will crush him in a kickboxing throwdown.”
And if this “throwdown” needed a venue, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center would be at the top of the list. The arena is 75 percent complete and is situated at the corners of Atlanta Ave. and Flatbush Ave. in downtown Brooklyn. It comes with all of the amenities of modern arenas (11 vault suites, 100 luxury suites, four bars, three clubs and a restaurant) and can be reached by 11 subway lines, 11 bus lines and the Long Island Railroad.
“I’m sure it will be the best arena in the world,” Prokhorov said.
The Forest City Ratner development (building owner Bruce Ratner is a minority in the Nets and Prokhorov is a minority owner in the building) is taking shape, which isn’t something you can really say about the Nets.
“The Nets—like the arena—is still under construction, in the building stage, and I will keep my prediction of the championship,” Prokhorov said, referencing his promise to win a title within five years of his 2010 purchase of the franchise. “So I will do my best (with the help of) my friends and my partners to make the Brooklyn Nets the champion of the NBA and I am very committed to this.”
General manager Billy King is about to embark on a do-or-die offseason. The Nets need to finish in the top three at the NBA Draft Lottery or they’ll forfeit their first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of the Gerald Wallace trade. Speaking of Wallace, they’ll either be trying to put together a new contract for him or at least hope he decides to opt in for the final year of his current deal.
King will have to decide whether or not to re-sign power forward Kris Humphries, surprise-D-League-call-up-turned-scoring machine Gerald Green and center Brook Lopez, who led the team in scoring last season before missing most of 2011-2012 with foot and ankle injuries.
Mostly, King needs to re-sign Williams, and he got an assist from Prokhorov in that regard on Monday.
“We (had) I think a very good discussion,” Prokhorov said of his meeting with King and Williams (it’s not clear if coach Avery Johnson was present). “He really wants to win, and I want to (win) maybe even more. I really want to go into details, but I think at this stage, we’re on the same page.”
“I think he wants to win and he wants to be part of a great franchise,” Prokhorov continued. “So we have the same view.”
And apparently, Prokhorov thinks King and Johnson share those same feelings as well. In spite of the Nets’ 21-37 record, Prokhorov gave the pair a good review.
“I think Billy and Avery are doing a great job,” Prokhorov said. “We have a common view, not only on the day-to-day routine, but on our strategic goal… I hope next season will be much, much better than the previous two.
“We need to be really, very patient, because it is easy to have a good team, a playoff team,” he continued. “And it’s very difficult to make a championship team. So we need to be very patient. We need to go slow, step by step, to find the best pieces for the team.”
As successful as Prokhorov has been in his life, the last year has been somewhat humbling. He reportedly lost over $5 billion in net worth and finished third in a campaign for Russian Prime Minister, later lamenting that the election process was unfair (he’s not alone in this belief).
Prokhorov said the defeat was just the start of his political career and he wants to continue working with the 20 percent of the country that yearns for significant changes. That doesn’t mean he’s about to ignore the Nets, though.
“It doesn’t matter whether I am in Moscow or here in New York because I watch nearly 80 percent of the games,” Prokhorov said. “I read the stats from all the games and I have a lot of conversations with my people. So I think what is more important? It’s not what you see. It’s more important what is behind the scenes, the day-to-day routine and our strategic plans.”
Like Prokhorov’s political career and wildly fluctuating portfolio, it’s hard to tell what he has in the Nets. It’s clear that he has the means and the smarts to be successful, but he, King and Johnson will have to convince Williams—and Brooklyn for that matter—that this is a franchise that’s capable of competing for a title in the near future.
Brooklyn won’t have the hometown pull for Williams that Dallas has, but it does have globalization on its side. International advertisers like Barclays and Stoichnaya have already jumped in head first, and they’ll go to great lengths to turn NBA stars into international icons. Even if Williams doesn’t jump at that chance, some other All-Star eventually will.
Some Draft Lottery Odds and Ends
The Charlotte Bobcats are a model of consistency. In nine NBA seasons, they’ve ended up in the NBA Draft Lottery eight times, tying the Toronto Raptors for futility over the last decade.
This will be the fifth lottery for the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets in that time, the fourth for the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The New Jersey Nets, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz have all made six trips to the lottery in the last decade and the Milwaukee Bucks—who are on the cusp of making the playoffs this season—have been in it seven times.
Check Out: Knicks at Bulls
In case you haven’t seen the highlights from New York’s 100-99 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday, you’re sure to get some glimpses during tonight’s 9:30 rematch from the United Center. Derrick Rose might sit with a bad ankle, which would tarnish the entire event. Rose was “held” to 29 points on Easter and missed two crucial free throws during the final moments of regulation (he also turned the ball over eight times). These teams could face off in the first round of the NBA playoffs, so ESPN’s broadcast could serve as a sneak preview.
And who knows, Carmelo Anthony could score 43 points and hit the game-tying 3-pointer in regulation and the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime again.
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