The NBA has made great strides overseas in the past decade, hosting preseason and regular season games in London and China. The then-New Jersey Nets even traveled to Russia for a pre-training camp trip in October of 2010. Now, Nets Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to see more of the NBA in Russia, specifically for professional games.
“We would actually love to see some regular-season games played in Russia, as we have currently in London,” Prokhorov said by e-mail to Bloomberg’s Jake Rudnitsky. “That would be my dream.”
Prokhorov has said previously that he wants the Brooklyn Nets to be a global brand.
The Nets played two games in London in 2011-12 against the Toronto Raptors, both considered home games.
The NBA hopes that the presence of Prokhorov, plus three Russian-born players (Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko, Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved, and Denver Nuggets center Tiomofey Mozgov) will help expedite the process of brand-building in Russia.
From Rudnitsky’s report:
The Clippers had to play in a decrepit Soviet-era arena in Moscow in 2006 because of a lack of modern facilities. State-owned VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest lender, is building a 54 billion ruble ($1.7 billion) multi-use complex in Moscow that will include a 12,500-seat basketball stadium, said Andrei Peregoudov, who heads the project.
“There are plenty of ways to promote the league in Russia and there is certainly an enthusiastic audience to be won over here,” Prokhorov said. “The league will need to invest time and money if it expects results, but I fully believe it will be worth it.”
It sounds like there’s a serious push to make Russia a viable option for professional teams to play. If any team spearheads the operation, it’s going to be the Nets, thanks to Prokhorov. You’d have to imagine that Brooklyn will push for the games to be “away” games for the Nets — there’s a lot of incentive to have as many events at Barclays Center as possible, and losing two home games won’t go over well with Barclays staff.