Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Mikhail Prokhorov dishes on D-Will
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with likely free-agent-to-be Deron Williams on Monday, Prokhorov told reporters during a Tuesday news conference at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"We (had) I think a very good discussion," Prokhorov said. "He really wants to win, and I want to (win) maybe even more. I really want to go into details, but I think at this stage, we're on the same page."
Williams has said he intends to opt out of the final year of his contract at season's end and become a free agent. The Nets can offer the All-Star point guard more than any team -- five years and $109 million, compared to four years and $81 million.
"I think he wants to win and he wants to be part of a great franchise," Prokhorov said. "So we have the same view."
The Dallas Mavericks are expected to be the Nets' biggest competition for Williams.
Williams grew up near Dallas, but has reiterated he has a great relationship with the Nets' upper management, loves living in New York and appreciates all of the marketing opportunities he's been afforded as a result of playing in the biggest market in the world.
Still, given the Mavericks also have a billionaire owner in Mark Cuban and are the defending NBA champion, they'll certainly be able to make a great sales pitch to Williams.
"Let the best man win. If he wins, I will crush him in a kickboxing throwdown," Prokhorov joked of Cuban.
The Nets haven't been successful on the court since Prokhorov has taken over as owner. They went 24-58 last season and are on pace to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
"The Nets -- like the arena -- (are) still under construction, in the building stage, and I will keep my prediction of the championship. So I will do my best (with the help from) my friends and my partners to make the Brooklyn Nets the champion of the NBA and I am very committed to this," Prokhorov said.
At the same time, he left himself an out, preaching patience in the rebuilding process.
"We need to go slow, step by step to find the best pieces for the team," Prokhorov said.
Prokhorov said -- just as Williams has this season -- that if it weren't for "crazy injuries," the Nets would be a playoff team.
Prokhorov hadn't visited Brooklyn since November 2010. His partner, Bruce Ratner, said the $1 billion arena is on schedule to be completed by Sept. 28.
"It's not my first visit, but now it looks very good. ... I'm sure it will be the best arena in the world," Prokhorov said.
Prokhorov, who went to nine games in 2010-11, has attended only one game this season because of his campaign to become president of his native Russia.
He lost the election, but that doesn't mean he's ready to give up on his political aspirations.
"The election was just the starting point of my political career," Prokhorov said, noting that 20 percent of the Russian population is still looking for significant changes.
Asked if he plans to run for president again, Prokhorov responded he still has six years to think about it.
Even though the Nets are moving out of Newark, Prokhorov hopes New Jersey fans will unite with fans from Manhattan and Brooklyn and follow the team.
"I know some people are very skeptical ... but we'll do our best to just persuade them to join us," he said.
The Nets' name change -- from New Jersey to Brooklyn Nets -- and their move to Barclays Center is expected to become official when the owners vote at the NBA Board of Governors meetings later this week.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.