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Nets following potential sale, focused on season News New Jersey Nets

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News » Nets following potential sale, focused on season

Nets following potential sale, focused on season

Nets following potential sale, focused on seasonEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - No one on the New Jersey Nets was preoccupied Tuesday with what might happen next season if Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov buys the team and moves it to Brooklyn.

The Nets would rather make the playoffs this year, no matter who is signing their checks.

Not much is expected of the youthful Nets as they open training camp. This will be a season to survive, with five players in the final year of their contracts and roughly six others facing a team option for next season.

Making the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time in three years would be a surprise.

"We don't have a lot of expectations on us," said Devin Harris, the point guard and the Nets' only All Star. "We do have guys with chips on their shoulders, guys traded from finals teams who have something to prove and guys in the final years of contracts trying to play their way into better deals. We have a lot of motivations, and we can use that to our advantage."

The most interesting offseason development for this team had been the trade of All-Star Vince Carter to Orlando in June. But that was upstaged last week when it was announced that Prokhorov, Russia's richest man, had a deal to buy 80 percent of the financially strapped team and nearly half of a project to build a new arena in Brooklyn.

The deal has a number of contingencies: Owner Bruce Ratner must sell roughly $600 million in tax-exempt bonds by the end of the year, get a successful ruling in an eminent domain case next month and approval of the NBA's board of governors.

"It's not something set in stone, so it does not affect us directly right now," Harris said. "As business goes, it goes as usual until that change is made. We can't concern ourselves with that distraction."

Veteran guard Keyon Dooling was at the other end of the spectrum: He's think the sale could have a huge impact on the players. And he's excited about the changes Prokhorov might bring.

"It affects us. It affects how the organization is run, the budget, it affects everything," Dooling said. "Why wouldn't it affect it? Leadership starts at the top and if you have a leader with the money and the resources to make this team an elite team, it makes a difference. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves."

Dooling said he has followed Prokhorov's Russian team, CSKA. It won the Euro championship in 2007 and has been a perennial Euroleague power. He hopes that Prokhorov will be willing to open his deep pockets and sign some of the top free agents coming available next year.

"Hopefully, he can bring his brand over here and make our organization successful," Dooling said.

Coach Lawrence Frank downplayed the potential ownership change. After the agreement was announced last week, he said he never reached out to team president Rod Thorn or current owner Bruce Ratner for any explanations.

"I was raised to focus on what you can control," Frank said. "I don't get caught up in the other stuff. Those things happen all the time. We have a job to do. That's it."

Prokhorov shot to prominence in the chaotic early years of privatization deals that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1993, the Onexim bank he headed acquired Norilsk Nickel, one of Russia's huge but lumbering industrial conglomerates.

Under Prokhorov, Norilsk became more efficient and profitable. He resigned as Norilsk chairman in 2007 and sold his shares for $7.5 billion, but retains substantial interests in other metals companies through Onexim, including shares in gold-miner Polyus and Rusal, the world's largest aluminum company. Onexim's other interests include real estate, insurance and energy.

Center Brook Lopez, the second-year player who is a rising star, said the ownership change is something that players can't control.

"We are players," he said. "We are paid to play basketball. I don't know how many decisions I can make for our new Russian owner, if it evens happens. I don't think he'll be asking me what to do. He and I are about $9 billion apart, so he won't be talking to me."

Dooling, however, has made it his business to be well-versed in Prokhorov's commodities holdings.

"I know he is out of nickel now. Maybe he can give me shares of aluminum," Dooling laughed. "The future is a lot brighter because he has the resources to make this team go."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 29, 2009


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