The Wall Street Journal this weekend has a story about Mikhail Prokhorov the Russian owner of the NJ Nets -- With pictures -- the guy looks more like a Swede than a Russian. The story is mostly about the Russian biathlon team, which Prokhorov bought and rebuilt. But it gives a great idea about the man and gives some indications of how he will manage the Nets.
At the conclusion, I give my take on how he might affect the draft, with my personal guarantee of how it will work out. Please consult the list of exclusions printed on the inside of the boxtop.
Here is a link to the WSJ article, worth reading. I will summarize and provide a couple of pull quotes for those who don't want to go there:
First, Prokhorov is worth $13-$17 billion, which might make him the richest owner in the NBA other then Paul Allen. He made his money taking over Norilsk Nickel, a huge mining conglomerate -- when he was 28 years old. He is still young today, looks like he is in his 40's. He won a reputation for innovation, making Norilsk into a very successful company, he seems like the kind of entrepreneur we'd celebrate in the USA.
Norilsk owns CSKA, the Russian team that Barca and Rubio just beat in the Euro Final Four last night. Bottom line, Prokhorov owned CSKA until he sold much of his stake in Norilsk Nickel in 2007 for $10 bn. He is the guy who really helped to build CSKA, but he no longer owns them. I'll bet he is still interested in the team, however.
The article talks about the way he changed the Russian biathlon team. Once the undisputed world power in the sport, the team had fallen from power since the Soviet era govt fell. It is very interesting to see how he implemented changes. Russia took some gold medals home in the biathlon this year.
Here is what the article says about CSKA:
"In November 1997, Mr. Prokhorov took over the CSKA Moscow basketball team—a unit that was left penniless after the fall of the Soviet Union and was all but defunct. Much has been made of Mr. Prokhorov's role in turning that team around: Now it's one of the winningest pro basketball teams in the world."
And here is what it says about the biathlon team & management:
"In 2008, as the founder of private investment fund Onexim Group, Mr. Prokhorov was looking for another team to finance and lead. Russian Olympic Committee president Leonid Tyagachev publicly campaigned for Mr. Prokhorov to take over the biathlon union. Mr. Prokhorov was unanimously elected president and took control in October 2008...
...After Mr. Prokhorov offered Mr. Kushchenko a job as executive director, the two men put together a 10-year plan to improve the biathlon union without disrupting the team too much before the approaching Vancouver Olympics...
...Before Mr. Prokhorov took over, Russian biathletes had to arrange their own travel, buying tickets and obtaining visas for various international competitions.... ...Team coaches found themselves saddled with managerial duties that distracted them from coaching.
...To improve all of those issues, Mr. Prokhorov hired "team managers" to free up athletes and coaches to focus on their sport.... ...What Mr. Prokhorov did to help the team may not be as telling as what he didn't do. He was so mindful of drastically overhauling the chemistry of the team so close to the Olympics that he left most of the team coaches in their jobs...."
OK, what I get from this article is that Prokhorov is very rich, has been very successful in both business and sports management, and does not behave in an ego-directed way, he is a long term thinker. From his appearance, he is tall & lean, keeps himself in shape, and will relate well to the players & coaches.
So what does this mean to us TWolves fans? My take:
- I'll bet this guy watched the series with Barca. And he had to be impressed with Ricky.
- He is not afraid to pay for players, but he does not throw money into the street. He seems to know sports and how to motivate people
- If we have guys on this blog talking about a Euro team, he must be thinking the same way. If our poster Ming has any credibility, it would seem that there are others that believe that a team of a lot of Euro players would do well in the NBA. Why wouldn't Prokhorov feel the same way?
- Brooklyn & New Jersey are the melting pot for East Europeans (try to get a taxi driver in NYC that speaks English as a native language!). He must see the commercial potential.
- If he is not afraid to spend money, and knows Euro basketball as well as Ming, and he wants to build a winning team fairly quickly, then 2nd round draft choices are gonna be valuable to him -- he can get experienced players quickly with no rookie salary scale issues to deal with.
- He is gonna want Ricky as his point guard and face of the franchise. How could he not do so?
So here is my prediction. This is assuming that the Nets & Wolves each get good draft slots, in the 1st 4 positions:
- If the Nets get #1, they will trade it to the Wolves for Ricky's rights & Pek's rights. Peks rights are worth more to Prokhorov than to anyone else, and our 2nd rounders have some value.
- This guy will want 2nd rounders to draft & stash Euros this year, before the rest of the NBA catches on.
- If the Wolves get #1, and NJ gets #2 or #3, we can trade Ricky's rights to NJ for their pick, draft Wall, & be assured of getting either Turner or Favors. We might still have Pek as a bargaining chip, and maybe Mavro's rights as well. Which means that Love or Big Al would still be around as assets for other trades, if management sees that as an opportunity.
- If NJ is in a position to draft Cousins, they won't. His personality issues will definitely not play well in a Euro focused team. Thus Cousins could fall to 5 in the draft.
Regardless of the details, this draft is gonna be very very interesting and profitable for the Wolves. The entrance of an experienced Euro owner to the picture with a high draft choice adds a lot of spice, given our assets.
I read the description of last night's game -- thank you Mr. Madison!!, that was terrific --- and I would love to see Ricky on our team. If none of the above comes to pass, no problem, we'd do very well with Ricky. But we have an opportunity to parlay Ricky's rights into the draft of the decade, and I'm guessing Kahn & Taylor will take that opportunity.
Finally, after reading the article about Prokhorov, I came away with a very different picture of the guy. I assumed he'd be an old-school Russian apparatchik who stole a bunch of assets and now wants to party. Nope, not at all. The guy is young, smart, entrepreneurial and seems to have good ethics in dealing with sports teams and people. He is going to change a lot of attitudes in the USA, in my opinion.