Ladies & Gentlemen, Get Up & Cheer: Mikhail Prokhorov Has Arrived

SLAM Cover

Our new owner is in the middle of a busy week. Between landing in the United States, fielding multiple press conferences, an appearance at the NBA Draft Lottery, making time Wednesday night to visit Yankees Stadium, and weathering a spit storm from having a conversation with Mike Francesa, oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov is a hot commodity in the New Jersey area these days. Finally approved as the first international owner of an NBA team last week, I think all Nets fans would agree after dealing with the last six years of Bruce Ratner at the helm that any shift in ownership is a welcome change. It’s not just for the sake of difference, though; The allure of the Russian billionaire is what Jay-Z would call “far too much for (us) to ever ignore.”

I must say, my new favorite defining piece of the Prokhorov madness is a gem. It’s not another wild, thrill-seeking stunt (although I do love that we have an adrenaline junkie for an owner), or an appearance with some TV or radio personality. It is a personal, two-minute message that Prokhorov made – for us, the fans – to kick off playing with his newfound toy.

Hello, Nets fans. I want to tell you how thrilled I am to be the new owner of the team. & I want to bring all of us a championship.

(ed. note: Ten seconds in and I’m kvetching right now. I don’t even know what kvetching means. But I’m doing it. I promise.)

We have taken the first step, and there will be many more exciting twists and turns along the way. & I hope you will all be along for the ride. You have a lot of questions for me & you have written in to the team, and let me answer a couple ones most often asked.

First, “how fast can we build a championship team?” If everything goes as planned, I expect us to be in the playoffs next season, and championship in one year minimum, and maximum in five years. Another question a lot of people are asking, what we’ll offer to the free agent that the other team can’t. To that, I would say that the excitement is with the Nets. We’ll have the desire to win that is unmatched anywhere in the league. This will be the first-class organization with all (the) support it needs, in terms of resources and stability in the front office, and the state-of-the-art arena to play in. & also, this will be the first truly global team in the NBA. With exceptional international exposure no other team can reach, there will be the fans of the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn to Moscow.

I feel pretty sure that I can convince the very best of the best that the Nets are the place that they want to be. (ed. note: three guesses who this is directed to. & the first two don’t count.)

Excuse me while I go pinch myself. If it wasn’t abundantly clear before this, consider it etched in stone: this is the owner we’ve been waiting for. Prokhorov is the anti-Ratner; an owner who is far more interested in producing a winning product then worrying about the bottom line. This is a guy who plays basketball and the market, and he’s putting basketball first. He’s in it for the challenge, not the checks. Seriously, try to picture Bruce Ratner making this video. You can’t. He’d just say something about “maximizing our profit margin” and then continue to drown whatever small child he was holding at the time.

I can’t help but like a guy who, with one hundred percent conviction, puts a maximum of a five-year wait on a championship for a franchise coming off a 70-loss season. & you shouldn’t either. That’s exactly the kind of swagger this team needs. After seeing Brook Lopez storm off in frustration after his teammates failed him time and time again, after hearing Rafer Alston complain that there was no team unity in November, after watching a team with a confidence level of -100 on a scale of 1-10 flounder in big moment after big moment, we as fans should relish in the direction the Nets franchise is moving in.

“I am real excited to take the worst team of the league and turn it to be the best.”

Of course, these promises are decidedly political. Ultimately, five years from now we may look back and laugh about “that crazy Russian,” the man who blew a lot of smoke but ultimately could not harness basketball’s lighting in a bottle, the nature of luck (which can change everything, as he has acknowledged). As Sebastian (via Jared Wade) showed us this morning, guaranteeing future championships is about as easy as making a predictive SLAM Cover that doesn’t look awkward and hilarious in retrospect. Even worse, he could be bluffing, turn into Bruce Ratner, and watch the team flounder as he only focuses on monetary goals. I think that’s unlikely though; even if Prokhorov has a little Harvey Dent in him (fearlessly thrusting himself into the position of Gotham’s/Brooklyn’s savior) I highly doubt his face will set on fire and psychologically force him to choose between Wall & Turner with a coin flip anytime soon.

At this moment in time, however, that is all secondary. What matters is that Nets basketball is immensely relevant beyond New Jersey now, and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is the reason. He is getting me – us – excited as Nets fans. He is turning the Nets into a global franchise. His confidence is unwavering, his resources seemingly unlimited, his desire to win unmatched. (Even his length and wingspan are NBA-ready. I’m waiting for Jay Bilas to remark on his “upside” and then slot him as the 10th best player available after Greg Monroe and before Ed Davis.) My point is that this is not the time to be reserved. We cannot temper our emotions. As Nets fans, the success of the franchise is predicated both on the quality of basketball operations within the front office and the rabid support we as fans give to our team. It may seem counter-intuitive to think that they need us more now, but they do. This is the time for us and the Nets to shine together.

We have survived the darkest hour of Nets history, a season dominated by perpetual disappointment and physical damage. As our reward, the days of failure, disappointment, and Ratner are over. Between jet ski stunts in Maldives to million-dollar parties to legends of his missing yacht, the Prokhorov era has begun.

Harvey Dent is right. The night is always darkest before the dawn. Break out the Stoli. The dawn is now.