(Long Island, N.Y.) When the Nets played on Long Island, they had a legitimate place to call home and a loyal fan base. The team was exciting with the likes of Rick Barry and Julius Erving and was a big part of the old American Basketball Association and subsequent merger with the NBA. But that was a long time ago.
These days, the Nets are a vagabond franchise that moved back to New Jersey after one season playing with the big boys. They will be moving to their third permanent home venue next season since coming to the Garden State in 1977 when they take up residence at the Prudential Center. That is until they move to Brooklyn.
Confused? How do you think any potential free agents are going to feel? Coming to the Nets on a long-term deal is going to be a hard sell because of how shaky everything is and that is not even looking at their league-worst 12-70 record this past season.
So how in the world will they attract at least one of the big names that will be available this summer? Money – the professional athlete’s best friend. And by getting billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to come in and be their sugar daddy is coming at just the right time.
The NBA Board of Governors approved Prokhorov as the new principal owner of the Nets and he is looking forward to the new challenge and what lies ahead. “It is my pleasure and honor to be joining the ranks of NBA team owners,” the Russian said. “My thanks to David Stern, the NBA and the Nets organization, Bruce Ratner and the other team owners who have given me their support.
“Today’s vote will give the NBA a greater global reach and bring a multitude of new fans to the game of basketball,” he continued. “For those who are already fans of the Nets and NBA, I intend to give you plenty to cheer about.”
And that translates into how much money Prokhorov will throw at the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire and Joe Johnson. Whoever decides to play career roulette and sign with the Nets won’t have much waiting for him. Outside of center Brook Lopez and point guard Devin Harris, the roster was filled with mediocre journeyman with expiring contracts.
This is not a quick fix, by any means. The Nets are in a total rebuilding mode but need to harness at least one franchise-type player to give the fans a reason to come back. Bruce Ratner has been with the team long enough to see the good and bad, and he realizes that the addition of Prokhorov is a huge boost for a franchise in desperate need of one.
“Mikhail and his team will bring tremendous innovation and excitement to the NBA,” the developer of the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. “He has a love for basketball and a commitment to excellence. I also thank the Nets organization, for which I have worked very closely with over the last six years.”
The Nets, who were not too long ago associated with superstars like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter and representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, can get themselves back in the hunt with a few shrewd moves. And making themselves at home will play a big part in that.