I will be the first to admit – I was losing faith in Mikhail Prokhorov. All of the reports (mainly stemming from Adrian Wojnarowski, but there were others) indicating he was the desperate billionaire, ready to do everything for one player – Carmelo Anthony. There was something about these allegations that never added up to me, but as these most recent round of trade negotiations with Denver started to span weeks, and not days, it was hard for me to dispute. Maybe the 60 Minutes interview and Prokhorov’s press week in May just demonstrated that he was a charming and quirky individual, but not necessarily a responsible NBA owner. Maybe Dave D’Alessandro was right and Prokhorov was NBA dumb.
I still can’t say with any certainty what Prokhorov’s legacy as Nets owner will look like, but in a few short minutes yesterday, the Russian billionaire eradicated any doubt I had in his leadership abilities. Maybe Anthony was never going to sign with the Nets. Maybe the Nuggets were only playing hardball and were willing to accept a more reasonable offer for ‘Melo’s services. It doesn’t matter. Prokhorov couldn’t have been more definitive and certain. The deal is dead. Done. Denver, ‘Melo, Chris Sheridan, Woj, et al, shove it. The buck stops here.
For someone who has long had doubts about the ‘Melo deal, but was ready to accept its inevitability, it was a cathartic experience. The most recent iteration of the deal that featured the Nets giving up Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, Stephen Graham, Ben Uzoh, Quinton Ross, Troy Murphy, Johan Petro and MAYBE Damion James AND multiple draft picks, while taking back Rip Hamilton’s awful contract and guaranteeing Chauncy Billups for another season, all for Carmelo Anthony was the epitome of irresponsibility. Yes, I understand that three-quarters of the players in this deal are awful players and yes, I know the sight of ‘Melo in a Knicks uniform later this season or next year (if there even IS a next year) will be a gut punch for Nets fans. But Prokhorov himself said the deal was “too expensive.” And in the end? The Nets will live another day. Brooklyn will still happen, and in my opinion, will be a success, one way or another. There’s still 18 months for the Nets to figure out a way to build a team that will sell both luxury suites and nose bleed seats at the Barclays Arena.
So now what? Now the Nets go back to doing what they were originally going to do way back in the Fall when a more reasonable ‘Melo trade was first discussed – the Nets look for ways to build a better team. Troy Murphy is almost certainly a goner. Devin Harris in all likelihood, is not the PG to lead this team into Brooklyn, or even the playoffs (whichever can come first). Brook Lopez needs a legitimate scorer to get the heat off him. The nets have oodles of picks and while I would love to see if Derrick Favors is more Kevin Garnett or Stromile Swift, I understand that in the right deal and for the right player, he’s got to be used as a chip. Just make smart trades. Don’t overpay and don’t strap your flexibility to add more pieces down the road by gutting your roster and taking on dead weight salary from players who are either has beens or never weres.
In the meantime, I can not praise and laud Prokhorov enough. He earned his stripes last night and he proved what should have been obvious from the get-go – no one becomes a billionaire by being a patsy.