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Mikhail Prokhorov's Thankless NBA Task

Has the National Basketball Association's second most widely known Russian (after this man) misread the U.S. market and tragically mishandled his headline-grabbing American acquisition?

You'd think so, reading Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski's vitriolic repudiation of what "the myth of Mikhail Prokhorov" has wrought for the lowly New Jersey Nets and its fans.

The furor centers on the Nets' pursuit of one of the NBA's best scorers, the disgruntled Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony. Prokhorov wants 'Melo (as he wanted LeBron James before him).

It's a pickup that could instantly turn Prokhorov's team into a playoff contender. Only it turns out that it's not that easy, as rumors swirl that neither Anthony nor his wife has any interest in the Nets or their swank new Brooklyn digs.

At his get-acquainted press conference, Prokhorov famously pledged to bring home a championship within five years and strike a balance between a sideline-stalking distraction and an aloof owner who spends most of his time "eight time zones away." Wojnarowski, one of the game's most widely read columnists, suggests Prokhorov risks failing on both accounts, accusing the Nets of "winging it" through "a serious [sic] of shots in the dark."

...[N]o one bought into the myth of Mikhail Prokhorov the way they did within that forlorn franchise. The Nets treat the Russian owner like some deity, like a Euro Mark Cuban, when he’s little more than an absentee landlord cutting big checks and delivering delusional proclamations of championship parades inside of five seasons.

All this less than a year into an ambitious rebuilding effort, mind you, and with talk rife of a costly NBA lockout this summer and the league forced to buy one failing team already this season. I couldn't help but wonder, reading the anti-Prokhorov rant, whether the billionaire playboy humiliated Wojnarowski in a game of H-O-R-S-E or something:

No one of substance cared about Prokhorov’s move to Brooklyn or his yachts and mansions and jets and entourages of party girls.

When everyone believed Prokhorov would hit the NBA like a force of nature, he’s hit it like Herb Kohl.

Now, the Nets are behaving in a most desperate way and trying too hard to validate Prokhorov’s relevance in the sport.

(Kohl is a Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin who also owns the Milwaukee Bucks and who, unlike Prokhorov, has fought tooth and nail to keep the team from abandoning its hometown.)

Wojnarowski, who's not alone in his full-court press on the NBA's only non-North American owner, then delivers this zinger:

They’re selling and selling, but no one’s been buying the big, mysterious Russian billionaire who actually isn’t such a mystery after all. He doesn’t know the NBA. He doesn’t like the Internet because he says there’s too much information. He barely had any thoughts about who to hire or why. And he’s never around anyway.

The NBA cognoscenti's message to Prokhorov is clear: "If you can't pull an Abramovich, well, then, there's the door and da svidanya."

The ball's in your court, Mr. Prokhorov.

-- Andy Heil

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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