BROOKLYN NETS: Nets Owner Aims Shot Across MSG Bow.
Hey Little Man..., Don't worry. It's all relative.
Back during the 2010 Draft Lottery show, when he officially first burst on the scene, and once the lottery picks were set, Mr. Prokhorov hinted to the lovely reporter interviewing him, that if the new Nets owner was made to reveal his five year plan for winning a championship on TV, he would have to kill her. Of course that was said tongue in cheek, as Prokhorov was obviously playing off the initial, mysterious, international, business tycoon/secret agent persona, he arrived in town with.
In effect, that was his way of saying hello to the NBA, America, and most importantly, Brooklyn and to his new direct competitor. What he gave fans that night, was, for all intent and purpose, the first impression of Mikhail Prokhorov. The first message he conveyed to the team's fans was one predicated on winning. Mind you, the Nets roster was far less skilled then, unlike the one Billy King just recently assembled. So on both points; death and winning; those were bold words back then.
But that wasn't when he offered his formal hello to the Knicks. Mr. Prokhorov took care of his initial introduction to the Manhattan team a few months earlier with a hallmark card in the form of giant mural painted high above 8th Ave, a mere two blocks from MSG. That bold maneuver precipitated the Billboard Wars. Jim Dolan rolled out two very brief campaigns, and nothing more for over a year and a half since. Meanwhile, Brooklyn's billboard campaign continued in earnest, till this very day. So if there were any fights to be picked, Prokhorov kicked sand at Dolan first.
Then Mikhail left the country, off to Russia. And you can just ask Pussy Riot; the all-girl punk-rock band arrested and jailed as dissenters in Moscow; how lucky Prokhorov really is to be safely back in the States. The Nets owner decided to take on Vladimir Putin, and run for President of Russia. Joking aside, there was a real possibility his ownership of the Nets would be placed in a Trust, if in fact he become the elected leader of modern day Russia.
To the relief of Nets fans, Prokhorov lost the elections, and is finally back in town to antagonize the Knicks, which is right where he should be. For due to his political aspirations, and playboy/tycoon's need to tempt fate, the result was spending too much time away from the team. And I in fact, felt his absence was even hurting the Nets. Back in March of this year, I wrote a post imploring the Nets owner to get back to work running the club. His latest "Little Man" arrow aimed directly at Jim Dolan is the exact reason; the epitome even; why. I argued then, as the Nets roster was still in flux without Deron Williams back in the fold yet, among other issues facing the team, but especially with the Knicks tripping over themselves at the same time, I thought it was incumbent upon Mikhail Prokhorov to maintain a presence in town, and at least manipulate the media. I reasoned, being as Mikhail Prokhorov was such a charismatic guy, he himself was a team asset being underutilized. And taking a jab at Jim Dolan is a perfect example, in a time when you're still trying to make an impression on your new fan base, of using the media to stir things up, and perhaps win some sentiment, and sway more fans the team's way.
At the time, the next we really heard from the Nets owner was during the Courting of Carmelo Anthony. That got things even more heated between owners of the Knicks and Nets. There were no personal attacks this time per se. But when Mikhail Prokhorov finally did intercede, he did so to inform every one the Nets were out of the running for Melo's services. Jim Dolan wound up getting his man, but at a steep price. The Nets then proceeded to smuggle Deron Williams into New Jersey under the cover of night, and trump the Knickerbocker's trade to acquire Carmelo Anthony.
Another sentiment Mikhail Prokhorov verbalized on several occasions over the pass two years, has been his intention to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans. In my daily experiences throughout the Borough, Mikhail Prokhorov, if not the Nets themselves, indeed have the attention of Brooklynites.
For me personally, I felt the buzz around town was a little tardy on arrival. I'm sure the Lock-Out had much to do with the lull. But I say, so did Mikhail Prokhorov's prolonged leave from the team. Since the unveiling of the team logo, and concerts a month away, the Borough is like a bee hive now. Calling Jim Dolan "Little Guy" is part of that. The Nets currently enjoy increased media and print coverage; team apparel is being purchased and worn throughout the neighborhoods; and team comparisons, and debates between fans who have chosen sides, spring up more often now. Of course, the ultimate factor determining success of failure for the Nets, Prokhorov, and Bruce Ratner; the man initially responsible for bringing the Nets to Brooklyn; is if the fans continue to pack Barclays Center, after the honeymoon effect is over.
During the recent free agent courting of Deron Williams between the Dallas Mavericks, who were making a strong pitch, and Brooklyn still being in the mix, Mikhail Prokhorov offered this assessment of the situation regarding the opposing bidding owner saying - " Let the best man win. If he (Mark Cuban) wins, I will crush him with the kickboxing showdown." Now that's my kind of owner! Kick ass and ask questions later. Or why bother asking questions at all? Just kick ass.
All the above encompass just a small role in a greater part Prokhorov must play. At the heart of everything is money, and he has a bunch of it. The state of the Nets on March 2010; Groundbreaking Day at Barclays; was questionable at best. While Bruce Ratner spearheaded the move to Brooklyn and the construction of Barclays Center, the project almost broke him; literally, figuratively, legally, and financially. It was under these circumstances we were first introduced to Mikhail Prokhorov; the mysterious Russian billionaire/basketball fan, and now said in hindsight - savior.
A tremendous task lay ahead towards taking the talent level of 2010, and flipping it into a competitive product by Opening Day in Brooklyn, which is now exactly seventy days away. In doing so, there was a huge price to pay, and some concessions to make. After all the alterations Billy King made to the roster, Mikhail Prokhorov paid the bill in full. Lest we forget, there is still a serious Luxury Tax attached to the Nets' player upgrades. But the team representing Brooklyn stands to be a very good one right off the bat. However, their surplus of draft picks, and their salary cap flexibility are all but gone now. On paper at least, the Nets are a potential top-five contender in the Eastern Conference. Will all these maneuverings really pay off? We'll see. But the bills have been paid in full by a guy who so far, has put his money where his mouth is.