In his tenure as Brooklyn Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov has acted as an agent of chaos. Prokhorov stays out of the country for months at a time, whether focusing on his political career or business in Russia, and then will interrupt a heli-skiing vacation in British Columbia to fire the Nets coach on the coach’s wife’s birthday. (Yes, that happened.) It’s never quite simple when it comes to Prokhorov.
But in his latest interview, an e-mail exchange with NorthJersey.com, Prokhorov did something he hasn’t done much: avoiding questions, and asked the fans for patience.
“It’s simply too early to draw any conclusions about the team,” Prokhorov told The Record by email on Monday. “We have a lot of new players and quite a few younger pieces, so it takes some time for the team to gel and to show its full potential.”
More interestingly, perhaps, are the questions that Prokhorov declined to answer in the e-mail. According to The Record, a question about the job performances of coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Billy King went unanswered. Ditto for a question about the team’s attendance, which has hit record lows in Brooklyn, and their lack of first-round draft picks, which limits their potential for a rebuild.
The Nets have opened the season a woeful 3-11, with the worst record in the Eastern Conference outside of the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, who are openly tanking their third consecutive season. The Nets have no incentive to tank, having sent their first-round draft pick this year, the next year (in a right to swap), and the year after that to the Boston Celtics.
The team has some options long-term, and Prokhorov knows that. The team will have close to $40 million in cap room this coming offseason, and the Nets have never shied from the trade market. That said, the upcoming free agent class isn’t considered particularly deep or strong, and it’s hard to construct a trade that would both make the Nets immediately better in the short-term or help them with their plan in the long-term.
The early scuttlebutt among national media is that Thaddeus Young or Brook Lopez might net them a draft pick, but the Nets just signed both of those players to long-term deals this summer in a commitment to build around them. Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson are both in their last year, but Johnson’s $25 million expiring contract is hard to match, and Jack’s departure would mean losing the starting point guard in an already-shaky backcourt. They’re not eligible to trade a first-round pick until 2020, and that mere fact speaks for itself.
It’s unfair to presume Prokhorov’s motives for not answering those questions. He may just have not wanted to speak on anything beyond the team right away. But the only message right now Prokhorov gave his franchise’s fanbase is: we don’t know anything yet.
Bergen Record — Prokhorov preaching patience for Nets