Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Can Prokhorov be the new Boss?
By Mike Mazzeo
Mikhail Prokhorov may not be George Steinbrenner just yet, but the Russian billionaire certainly has the potential to become New York’s favorite owner.
Thank goodness for that.
James Dolan -- the same James Dolan Prokhorov called “That Little Man” in a recent interview with New York Magazine -- has become public enemy No. 1 in this town. Jeremy Lin is gone, while Cablevision customers are missing out on Seinfeld re-runs (not to mention the Mets) because WPIX is blacked out. What gives?
The Wilpons? Public enemy No. 2. Meanwhile, Hal Steinbrenner seems more intent on making money than spending it. Did George ever care about the luxury tax?
John Mara owns the most successful organization in town but almost never says anything, while Woody Johnson has Rex Ryan to do all his talking for him.
Let’s face it: Prokhorov doesn’t really have much competition here. And even if he did, it probably wouldn’t matter.
Prokhorov has all the attributes needed to endear himself to the metropolitan area: he’s rich, he’s got a great sense of humor and he’s not afraid to open his wallet -- or take a jab at his rivals. This despite spending the majority of his time in Russia, where he still has aspirations of becoming a politician.
It’s one thing to throw out five-year championship plans, claim you’re going to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans or jokingly challenge a fellow owner who is hoping to snatch up your franchise player to a kickboxing throwdown.
It’s another to fund the construction of a $1 billion arena, give your GM and assistant GM an endless budget -- luxury tax be damned -- for which to spend on free agents and retain that franchise player -- and that’s exactly what Prokhorov has done.
Barclays Center is near completion, Billy King and Bobby Marks dropped over $330 million to make the Nets a playoff contender heading into their first season in Brooklyn and Deron Williams won’t be cashing checks from Mark Cuban in 2012-13.
Yes, Prokhorov and the Nets did literally everything they set out to accomplish except get Dwight Howard. And they didn’t even mess that up. Dwight did.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Dolan still hasn’t explained his decision to let Lin go. Granted, the Knicks did win a playoff game last season, which, given the ineptitude of the franchise under the pre-Donnie Walsh regime, constitutes progress.
Still, the Knicks have history, tradition, an iconic arena and one of the best fan bases in all of sports. And the Nets would be wise to aspire to that.
The East River Rivalry is going to be riveting. Joe Johnson got things off to a great start when he said the Nets were the best team in town, and the 6-foot-8 Prokhorov only added to the fun by taking a shot at his shorter counterpart. Nov. 1 can’t get here fast enough.
Prokhorov told New York Magazine he’s going to attend a quarter of Brooklyn’s regular-season games and all the playoff games.
That’s perfectly fine -- so long as he keeps firing the one-liners and building his reputation as New York’s favorite up-and-coming owner.