Friday, September 21, 2012
Mikhail Prokhorov restates big plans
By Mike Mazzeo Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's goal is to win a championship -- and he expects do so within the next three years.
"Every team has a grand plan, and we're moving slowly, step by step, because it's easy to make a strong team, but it's very difficult to make a championship team. So we are on the right way and I'm expecting our championship within three years now," Prokhorov told reporters Friday morning after participating in a ribbon-cutting with partner Bruce Ratner and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, marking the ceremonial opening of the $1 billion Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.
Mikhail Prokhorov has a grand plan for the Nets, who open their new arena in their first season in Brooklyn Nov. 1 against the rival Knicks. "I'm really thirsting for the first of November," he said.
When Prokhorov bought the team in 2010, he said the Nets would capture the NBA title within five years, meaning his plan remains on schedule.
"He said five, so we're down to three. To me, it's a great goal," Nets general manager Billy King said. "I'd rather him say that than say, 'Hopefully we're going to win a championship at some point.' That's the goal, and I look forward to the challenge."
The Nets have gone just 58-172 over the last three seasons and haven't made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. But Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire, opened his wallet over the summer, allowing King and assistant GM Bobby Marks to dole out more than $330 million to retain superstar point guard Deron Williams and surround him with talented players like shooting guard Joe Johnson.
"For me there is only one place: No. 1," Prokhorov said. "And I'll do my best in order to reach a championship."
Prokhorov confidently said he believes King will be "GM of the Year," and he doesn't care how much money he has to pay in luxury taxes.
"You can add it up. I don't want to do your job, but for me it's most important to have a championship," he said.
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Prokhorov plans on attending 25 percent of the team's regular-season games, and "now we can add playoffs," he said, guaranteeing a 2013 appearance. He added that his ultimate goal is to "make a small dynasty team."
King wouldn't say where he believes the revamped Nets stack up against the rest of the Eastern Conference.
"I leave that to you guys. I've never been one to say where we stack up," King said. "I think for the first time in my years for the Nets, every night going in I know we can compete with the opponent. I don't think there's one game I'd say, everything's gotta go right to beat that team, and that's what you want."
Barclays Center will officially open on Sept. 28, when Jay-Z will perform the first of his eight sold-out concerts.
"I'm very excited," Prokhorov said when asked about the arena. "As I already mentioned, when I saw it two years ago, it was a hole in the ground. It's a dream, for me, what we see now. I think it's the best arena in the world. I'm expecting a great rivalry with the Knicks."
The Nets will play their first regular-season game at the arena on Nov. 1 against their biggest rivals, the Knicks.
"It's not for me to make that decision, it's an NBA decision," Prokhorov said when asked if he had anything to do with the scheduling of the opener. "But I'm really thirsting for the first of November."
Will Knicks owner James "That Little Man" Dolan be invited?
"I've sent him an invitation already. Still waiting for the answer," Prokhorov joked.
Brooklyn has been without a professional sports franchise since 1957, when the Dodgers left the borough for Los Angeles.
"Not everyone, in their lifetime, gets to witness an event that changes a city," Prokhorov said. "Maybe those who witnessed the building of the Brooklyn Bridge could say that. Barclays Center will be the heart of the Brooklyn borough.
"I assure you, we are bringing a team that is worthy of this great arena and this great borough."
At 9:38 a.m. ET the lights at the Barclays Center were turned on, much to the delight of the hundreds who attended the Friday morning news conference. Exactly an hour later, the ribbon was cut.
"This is a great day for Brooklyn, and a great day for New York City!" Bloomberg exclaimed.
Center Brook Lopez was the only Nets player who attended the ceremony. Prokhorov said he took the subway to the arena.
Prokhorov was evasive when asked about possible contract extension talks with coach Avery Johnson, who is going into the final year of his deal, but did hint that Johnson and King will be in Brooklyn for a while.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.