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In this historic summer of NBA uncertainty, one thing is clear to Mikhail Prokhorov: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will play for the Miami Heat next season.
Another of Prokhorov's beliefs is that if LeBron James joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, The King could win "two or three titles" but "diminish the LeBron brand" because he'd be winning with such a power-packed lineup.
Those are two of the convictions the New Jersey Nets' billionaire Russian owner shared with his inner circle of executives before boarding his private jet and leaving the United States last weekend.
After meeting with The Big Three of this summer's free-agent class -- James, Wade and Bosh -- last week, Prokhorov held a conference call with some of his top executives from the Nets and Onexim, his holding company, to discuss his strategy and impressions.
ESPN.com has obtained notes from the meeting from a league source, and they provide interesting insight into the perceptions of the NBA's newest, most fascinating owner -- who, above all, left his first foray into NBA free agency optimistic his Nets soon would be the home of James.
The Nets were the first of six teams to meet with James last week, and after what was, by most accounts, an impressive presentation, Prokhorov made these observations about James' decision-making process:
On the conference call, he categorized the options he believes James has before him:• The "hometown angle" of remaining with the Cleveland Cavaliers. • The choice to play with Wade and Bosh in Miami, where James would have a "very high chance to win two or three titles" but where he could also "diminish the LeBron brand." • Joining the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks. These teams, according to Prokhorov, are similar from a basketball standpoint and he believes none of the three clubs has a clear-cut strategy for winning championships. • Becoming a member of the Nets, who would give James the best opportunity to build a dynasty, become a champion and emerge as a global icon. To assure James of winning, Prokhorov said the Nets would pursue a trade for Chris Paul. He admits it could "take a year for the young roster to grow" but that after adding the right pieces around James, the Nets could win the NBA title two years from now. Prokhorov also believes James would benefit greatly on a global scale because of the synergy James would have with Prokhorov and Nets minority owner Jay-Z, and that his brand would experience global expansion from Day 1.
Prokhorov was highly optimistic about the Nets' chances of landing James and admitted to being intrigued by the choice the 25-year-old superstar would make. He said he has great respect for James' inner circle, which is led by business manager Maverick Carter, and he understands the challenge it faces in making such a monumental decision.
Although discussion of James accounted for most of the conference call, Prokhorov also talked about Wade and Bosh, both of whom are represented by agent Henry Thomas. Prokhorov said he was very impressed with Thomas, but he also admitted it was a "dilemma to try and convince him to think on a global scale."He believes Thomas had rarely, if ever, been confronted with a globally based package, "especially under such an intense spotlight."
Finally, regarding Wade and Bosh, Prokhorov told his inner circle he has no doubt that both will sign with Miami.
Prokhorov ended the call by detailing the Nets' championship strategy. First, he said they must get one or two of The Big Three to sign with New Jersey. If the Nets land James alone, he wants them to sign either Carlos Boozer or David Lee to play beside him.As the veterans lead the Nets to the playoffs, he expects the club's young talent, most notably rookie lottery pick Derrick Favors, to grow and develop their games.
In the event the Nets fail to get James, Prokhorov said the club will seek to add other players, while also saving enough money to be active in free agency next summer. They will also look to improve their roster through "meaningful trades" that will set them on course to become the dynasty he so boldly predicted last month that they would become.Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.
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