The concept that the Nets would be a major player for free agents in the Summer of 2010 was first born more than two years ago, when the Nets shipped off one of their most popular players, Richard Jefferson, to the Milwaukee Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. A year later, Vince Carter was the next domino to fall, signaling that for the 2009-10 season, performance on the court was going to be a secondary priority. What mattered most was financial flexibility.
Here we are, July 1st, and after two years of mostly miserable times following this Nets team, the era of hope is officially upon us and the Nets will be the first team to sit down with LeBron James in Akron, OH. As a massive billboard in the face of Madison Square Garden flaunts the team’s owners and their desire to be players, Nets fans have apparently been given the okay by those involved to “think big” too. It almost feels like if the Nets don’t walk away with the coup of the century, LeBron James in Newark then Brooklyn for the next five years, it will be a disappointment. But as we fans learned before the draft lottery, it’s hard to count on the unexpected. Nets fans just need to roll with every rumor until some of these big names start to land somewhere.
Strangely enough, after a week of talk of a “super team” in Miami, or matching Jordan’s legacy in Chicago (Frank Isola will still tell you the Knicks are totally legit in this arm’s race, though after being one of the king rumor-mongerers the past year he’s suddenly sick and tired of this stuff if you read his twitter page), it appears in many reports this morning that LeBron staying in Cleveland is the most plausible scenario. Shocking, I know.
Al Iannazzone talks about how for the Nets, the owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, is their pitch. Will it work? Depends on how you define “work”: “I think they’re going to be successful, but how do you define success?” an Eastern Conference executive said. “If you end up with Rudy Gay and David Lee with Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Brook Lopez, I think that’s a nice team.”
But with a three-hour presentation planned, the Nets are going to do more than just have Prokhorov show up and kickbox. Fred Kerber, who’s really done some fantastic reporting during this whole ordeal, has the scoop on who’s going to say what today:
Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov will pitch his global vision, showing James the vast network his resources reach, including Russia, Brooklyn, China, a network that could make him a billionaire.
Hip-hop mogul and James friend Jay-Z will propose James’ own clothing line plus a new fragrance, as well as opportunities in entertainment.
Coach Avery Johnson will concentrate on his approach and James’ play as huge pieces of a resurgent team with quality youth in place.
Team president Rod Thorn can show how he twice brought the team from the brink and, even if he’s not in place in two more weeks, that with Prokhorov’s determination to have a dynasty, the commitment to winning is ferocious.
Dmitry Razumov, CEO of Prokhorov’s Onexim company, will pitch business opportunities awaiting James.
Nets CEO Brett Yormark can discuss ways the Nets, who will be in Brooklyn in two years, can market the NBA’s reigning MVP and biggest star.
By the way, those on LeBron-burnout should now that before midnight last night, a few other big names opted out of their contracts, some unexpectedly. Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Richard Jefferson, who left nearly $15 million on the table, according to the New York Times. For a pretty thorough rundown on the FA market besides LeBron, check out Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest scribblings.