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How Mikhail Prokhorov Destroyed The Brooklyn Nets Franchise

Max Meyer |
June 28, 2013 | 10:31 a.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

The Russian billionaire is spending money recklessly and building an old team. (Creative Commons/Reaganite Republican)
The Russian billionaire is spending money recklessly and building an old team. (Creative Commons/Reaganite Republican)
When it was announced that Mikhail Prokhorov would be the majority owner of the New Jersey Nets franchise during the 2010 NBA playoffs, Prokhorov stated that he had a five-year plan for the organization. This included winning an NBA championship over that span. 

Fast-forward to a little over three years later, and the Nets have made just one playoff appearance during Prokhorov’s reign. And Brooklyn losing to the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls in the first round this past postseason has to be considered a disappointment.

So on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft, Prokhorov did something that he has always been willing to do: spend a plethora of money on aging veterans while sacrificing the future to do so. 

My nickname for Prokhorov is “The Wolf”, a character from the film Pulp Fiction. In case you’ve never seen it, the basic idea of “The Wolf” is that he fixes other peoples’ problems. Prokhorov does this by taking on lousy contracts that no other team in the NBA would, and giving up valuable assets in exchange for those players. 

Prokhorov repeated this disturbing trend on Thursday night by trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, while giving the Boston Celtics Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and a sign-and-traded Keith Bogans. 

However, the real killer of this trade for the Nets is their continued disregard for their draft picks. The Celtics will receive the better of the two first-round picks that the Nets own (Nets or Atlanta Hawks) in a loaded 2014 draft, along with first-round selections in 2016 and 2018, and the ability to swap first-rounders in 2017. 

The Nets essentially gave up the opportunity to draft a premier prospect in four out of the next five years and sign him to a favorable contract, in exchange for at best, two seasons of production from the Celtics’ veteran trio.

This...looks...weird. (Creative Commons/Red's Army)
This...looks...weird. (Creative Commons/Red's Army)
But will the Nets even be that good this upcoming season?

Brooklyn’s odds in the LVH sportsbook to win the championship shot up to 15-to-1 last night, tied for the sixth-best in the NBA. Just to win the Eastern Conference alone, the Nets have 15-to-2 odds, good for fourth-best behind the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. Isn’t this basically where the Nets were at the beginning of last season?

The Nets will have to pay Pierce $15 million for this upcoming season before he becomes a free agent. Garnett and Terry are both signed through the 2014-15 season, and will be collecting a combined $17 million in each of those two seasons. So if they don’t win a championship in the next two seasons, this deal will be considered an epic disaster.

I wouldn’t put my money on it happening either.

Doesn’t anyone remember Pierce looking like he belonged in a nursing home after shooting 37 percent this past postseason? What about Garnett missing double-digit games due to injury, and averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game when he was healthy? Or even Jason Terry scoring his fewest amount of points since his rookie season?

Also, wouldn’t you have thought that Prokhorov would have learned his lesson by now about throwing away his money to “win now”? The Nets laughably traded for Joe Johnson’s contract, one of the worst in the NBA, last offseason simply to say that they have another “All-Star”. Additionally, the Nets re-signed Deron Williams to the tune of $20 million a year until the end of the 2016-17 season, even though his numbers had been slipping the past couple of seasons.

Who can forget the Nets’ big plans during the “Summer of LeBron”, when their big acquisition was signing Travis Outlaw five-year, $35 million contract, and then amnestying him a year later? Or arguably the most egregious move of them all, trading their top-3 protected 2012 first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace? Not only did that pick turn into Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, the Nets re-signed Wallace last offseason to a four-year, $40 million deal. A contract so bad, that the Nets decided that they needed the Celtics to take it on in this trade. 

All of these contracts will result in Prokhorov having to pay an $80 million luxury tax for this 2013-14 season, along with having a payroll of $100 million. That’s a lot of money to pay for a franchise that’s not even considered by Vegas to be a top-3 team in their own conference for next season. 

Additionally, to lead all of these guys to a championship, Prokhorov thought it would best to hire a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd this offseason. Not a coach with experience, but rather a guy who just played in the postseason for the New York Knicks a mere month ago. If you are serious in your plans to win a championship, at least take the coaching search seriously. 

Prokhorov has done some good things for the Nets though. By moving them to Brooklyn and into the Barclays Center, he’s globalized the franchise. With the names he’s stockpiling, he’s made the Nets more exciting than they could have ever dreamed just four years ago.

But if Prokhorov doesn’t have that vaunted NBA Championship trophy within the next two seasons, his five-year plan will be viewed as unsuccessful as Stalin’s.


Reach Senior Sports Editor Max Meyer via e-mail or on Twitter @TrojanMax12



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