Are the Nets primed to play their preseason games in Russia? It looks that way. Sergei Kushchenko, who is on the team’s board of directors, told a Russian news agency that the NBA could set up exhibition games in Russia, particularly with “those Brooklyn Nets”:
Kushchenko, who is also the VTB league president, suggests he could use his dual role to set up games.
NBA exhibitions against VTB teams are “possible,” especially if “those Brooklyn Nets” are involved, he told Russia’s Itar-TASS news agency.
The last NBA team to play a Russian team was the San Antonio Spurs, which beat CSKA Moscow 95-93 last year.
Though Kushchenko is not officially listed in the team’s public front office page, he’s one of the top aides to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and has taken a bigger role with the team in the past season. Some reports indicated that he’s slowly taking the job held by Dmitry Razumov, Prokhorov’s second-hand man who serves on the team as Chairman of the Board.
There are obstacles beyond basketball. Long-standing, rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated further this weekend after a domestic Malaysian airlines flight was shot down in a war zone between the two countries, with each side blaming the other. If peace is not reached soon, it may be in the best interests of the team and the league to avoid the area for safety concerns.
There have also been Nets-related tensions between the US and Russia. In March, Prokhorov stated his desires to move the team’s controlling offices back to Russia to circumvent sanctions between the two countries. Prokhorov, a Putin supporter, voiced the concern after the US froze American-based assets owned by Russians. The NBA never received any such application, and if they did, it would require 3/4ths approval from league owners.
The Nets have made trips to Russia before since Prokhorov took over the team, including a preseason trip before their inaugural season in Brooklyn.