“Frankly speaking, I deserve a championship now much more than six years ago,” Prokhorov said, one day after dismissing coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Billy King. “I think we have been really bold and we did our best in order to reach a championship. And I still believe with some luck, our results might have been more promising.
“But I’ll do my best to make us a championship team, and if we compare now and six years ago, we have a state of the art arena in New York. We’ll have a fascinating training facility and it will open, I think, next month. We’ll have a D-League team. We’ll have a big amount of money under the cap next season. We have everything the best. I’m really optimistic. Now I’m 100 percent owner of the team and the arena and I’m very committed to be championship and I’m all in.”
Saying the Nets have been “bold” is a different way of saying they have been “reckless.” Yes, the Nets do have a state of the art arena and a new practice facility on the way in Brooklyn. But Prokhorov is wrongly under the assumption that because the team has cap space, the organization will be able to land marquee talent despite its woeful record and bleak future.
With the cap rising to the $90 million range, virtually every team is going to have added cap space. That is not an exclusive advantage only the Nets have, even though they’re presenting it that way.
For years, the Nets thought they would be in the running for Kevin Durant back when Jay-Z was a partial owner and the team was at least winning more than it lost. Now, landing a star of Durant’s caliber is a pipe dream at best.
Most importantly, Prokhorov said he was “all in” but followed that up with a contradictory statement later on when asked about his willingness to sell the team.
“I have no, any, ideas to sell,” Prokhorov said. “It’s just the opposite. I used this opportunity to increase my shares in the arena and in the team. On one hand because there is a wish to have equal stock in the arena and the club. On the other hand, there were requirements being faced for a city and, of course, it was a great opportunity for me and for my team to increase shares in the team.
“From time to time, some people came to us and they gave us a bid. I think it’s not bad to receive bids from the market. I’m just a businessman. If anybody else has a desire to have a bid, he’s welcome.”
In short, Prokhorov is in no hurry to sell the team – for now. But if he gets a good offer and can make a profit to his liking, the Nets can be sold. After all, Prokhorov is indeed a businessman and specifically said bids are welcome.
Why else might Prokhorov want to jump ship quickly?
On Dec. 8, former Nets general manager Billy King spilled a cup of coffee on the bench before a game against the Houston Rockets. An attendant came over and asked for a towel to help clean up King’s mess. Almost a month later, Prokhorov is searching for a miracle worker to clean up the real mess King left behind – a depleted roster with few trade assets and draft picks until 2019.
Until King’s full-time successor is determined, assistant GM Frank Zanin will handle all decisions regarding basketball operations.
While there was a report King would have input on his successor, Prokhorov acknowledged he would listen to King’s ideas but only “as a friend.”
“So, you know my business approach,” Prokhorov said. “I try to invite the best people I can find on the market and give them some amount of time to make decisions. I don’t interfere in the day-to-day routine.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari, who previously held a 72-112 (.391) record as Nets coach from 1996-1999 and has strong ties to Nets CEO Brett Yormark, is a leading candidate, although reports say he would be looking for a package averaging eight figures per year.
Former Golden State Warriors coach and 17-year NBA veteran Mark Jackson, who was born in Brooklyn and attended Bishop Loughlin High School and St. John’s University, also has been mentioned.
The notion of Brooklyn hiring someone in a dual management and coaching role similar to Stan Van Gundy in Detroit isn’t something ideal, according to Prokhorov.
“My perception is that there is some kind of friendly contradiction between GM and the coach,” Prokhorov said. “I prefer to have like both the general manager and the head coach.”
So what is Prokhorov looking for in his next GM-coach tandem?
“I think I want us to have a much firmer blueprint,” Prokhorov said. “What kind of players we’re looking for and why in line with the strategic guidelines developed with the new coach and GM. I think we need to have a sense of identity and a style of play. Are we building a team around franchise player or are we balancing with the younger athletes without a superstar system or about 3-point shooting, defense or speed? It will be a very important conversation with the future GM and coach.”
Today’s NBA is focused on pace, floor spacing and versatility. Players who can succeed in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets and 3-and-D specialists are at a premium. The best way to build a competitive team is through the draft, then supplementing the roster through trades and sprinkling in free agents for depth.
But Brooklyn will have to rebuild backwards. It has two players on rookie deals on its roster, and both are recovering from long-term injuries. It has one first-round pick over the next three years, and that one may have to swap positions with Boston. It could be without a second-round pick until 2021.
Simply put, there’s no quick fix for this mess. It will take years to rebuild.
With that in mind, will desperate times call for desperate measures?
One outside the box candidate who has been mentioned is CSKA Moscow president Andrey Vatutin. Prokhorov was asked about Vatutin and the notion that he will look at other international management and coaching candidates.
“You mean the rumors about Andrey Vatutin?” Prokhorov said. “I have no plans for that. We are just at the beginning of the procedure. We have a big list of potential candidates, and I will meet personally with all of them.”
Once the team lands a general manager, it will look for the right coach – an area where Brooklyn has been consistently inconsistent.
Consider this: Brook Lopez, the team’s longest tenured player, will now have played for eight different coaches in eight seasons. Prokhorov argues that figure is misleading.
“Actually, we only let two coaches go,” Prokhorov said. “P.J. Carlesimo, he was an acting head coach. And Jason Kidd, he left by himself. So, we are just optimistic, but for the time being, the Brooklyn Nets is the best franchise with the best arena. We will, in a few months, have the best training facility with the D-League with big amount of money under the cap. I think it’s a great challenge for any GM and any head coach.”
While Prokhorov is optimistic as he mentioned, he needs to be realistic. Hiring a splashy name like Calipari may not be the answer due to the lack of assets to help turn around the organization.
With a long-term rebuilding process on the horizon, will Prokhorov want to stick around? If he gets a good offer where he can turn a substantial profit, he may be headed back to Russia in a New York minute.