Nets owner ties dreams to wallet
Sure, the most interesting man in the world is the Dos Equis guy. But the second-most interesting man in the world is a 6-foot-8 globetrotting Russian playboy millionaire with pursuits in metals, gold, mining, denim, yachting, politics and the 24-second shot clock.
Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn, nee New Jersey, Nets, is a cross between Mark Cuban, George Steinbrenner and Richard Branson.
The second-most interesting man in the world – who bought the Nets from Bruce Ratner in May 2010 – has:
• The most interesting arena.
• The most interesting roster.
• The most interesting payroll.
Before we get to any of that, it must be noted that Prokhorov, 48, ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 Russian presidential election, finishing third with 7.9 percent of the vote. Which makes Prokhorov a 21st-century version of George Wallace, John B. Anderson and Ross Perot.
(If you buy the Nets, you are a dreamer. If you run against Vladimir Putin, you are an impossible dreamer.)
When he bought the Nets, Prokhorov vowed to make them NBA champions within five years; like a politician, he’s probably making a promise he cannot keep. His new catchphrase for the Nets is, “We’re aiming for amazing,” which, of course, sounds better than, “We’re aiming for 45-37.”
Prokhorov inherited the controversial, then-under construction Barclays Center – it’s always nice when the public subsidizes a new arena for the 58th richest man in the world – and the building immediately was hailed as the savior of Brooklyn, which, unbeknownst to many of its residents, had been in steady decline since baseball’s Dodgers left in 1958.
(By the way, the construction of the arena – challenged unsuccessfully several times in court – was a case of moneyed interests once again plowing over unmoneyed interests, with the unmoneyed once again picking up a large part of the cost of the business. Or, as Prokhorov might eloquently state, “It’s good to be in America.”)
Armed with a personal fortune and the largesse of the community, Prokhorov decided to literally gather a lineup of all-stars. The Nets’ starting five this season of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez has a combined 35 all-star game appearances, with 10-time all-star Jason Kidd the team’s first-year coach.
At the moment, all that star power has led to a 3-7 record, which proves the adage that you can lead a stable of stud horses to water but you can’t make ‘em hit an open jump shot.
Naturally, the price of assembling a super team – albeit, a flawed one – is NBA-astronomical. The Nets easily have the league’s top player payroll this season: $101 million.
(The highest paid Net is Johnson, at $21.5 million. Yes, $21.5 million. I’ll be honest with you – even if Johnson juggled a baby, a bowling ball and a steak knife at halftime and singlehandedly stopped global warming, he’s not putting one additional fan into the stands.)
The $101 million payroll also triggered a league-record luxury tax bill of $80 million-plus, putting the Nets’ total tab over $180 million. The luxury tax is designed to punish the biggest spenders; it’s in place to discourage someone like Prokhorov from emptying his fat wallet.
(Incidentally, I’ve always wondered where the luxury tax goes. As it turns out, half the luxury bill is redistributed to the teams below the tax line and the rest goes to the league’s revenue-sharing pool, with a small amount set aside to re-carpet David Stern’s office, which seems preposterous to me considering he’s retiring in February and you know incoming commissioner Adam Silver is going to want to redecorate.)
Anyway, Prokhorov – worth a reported $13 billion – doesn’t mind the extra $80 million in luxury taxes, but he’s backed off his original claim that if the Nets don’t win a title within five years, he would get married.
Prokhorov now says that was a joke.
To be honest, I think the second-most interesting man in the world realized that marriage was one luxury tax he didn’t want to pay.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Would Roger Goodell sign off on an agreement between Daniel Snyder and a Native American group to allow casino gambling in the offseason at FedEx Field in exchange for retaining the Redskins name? (Ira Lilien; Fresh Meadows, N.Y.)
A. I can’t believe you sat in on that meeting last week.
Q. You seem very negative about most everything in sports, so why do you work in sports? (Tobias Williams; Annapolis, Md.)
A. When I got out of college, I was a male model. But that’s a young man’s game; sports will take me to the grave, and, hopefully, a little beyond.
Q. I noticed that the University of Miami and some top SEC football teams do not leave their state to play unless it is a league game. Is this because of parole regulations? (Charlie Cox; Spokane Valley.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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