LONDON—You don’t become one of the world’s most successful and most powerful men by making rash decisions and not having the stomach to see a venture to the finish.
So it should come as no surprise to Nets fans that principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov remains completely committed to this team, this franchise, and is determined to bring a championship to Brooklyn.
“I am all in for this team and I think this is the only way how to win a championship,’’ Prokhorov said Thursday night before the Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 127-110 before a packed house in O2 Arena.
The NBA Global Games was a monster hit with stars such as Sir Paul McCartney sitting next to Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark.
Fans from Russia came to see Andrei Kirilenko, fans from the Balkans came to see Mirza Teletovic, fans from the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia came to see Toko Shengelia, and fans from everywhere came to see Kevin Garnett, who remains one of the most popular NBA players worldwide.
When asked if he had seen an increase in Brooklyn Nets apparel in Russian and throughout his world travels, Prokhorov was delighted, saying the Nets had become a global brand.
Prokhorov acknowledged he was not happy with the Nets injury-riddled dismal start. He has opened his wallet in a big way, spending some $190 million in salary and payroll tax in his quest to bring the Nets their first-ever NBA title.
“Of course at the beginning, I wasn’t jumping over the moon,’’ said Prokhorov. “But it’s a sport. It’s a procedure. And now the team is playing much better. So we’re on the right way.”
The Nets (16-22) continued moving in the right direction in 2014, winning their sixth game in the last seven and improving to 6-1 since the ball dropped in Times Square. Atlanta, whom the Nets beat, 91-86, on Jan. 6 in Barclays Center, fell to 20-19.
Joe Johnson put on another one of his spectacular shooting displays, scoring 29 points on 6-of-8 on 3s, as the Nets built a 99-74 lead after three quarters.
Paul Pierce, playing the stretch four position, added 18 points and 6 assists. Alan Anderson had 15 points.
Garnett, who Prokhorov said plays with his heart, added 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 18 minutes. Andray Blatche posted a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Prokhorov is not looking at this team with rose-colored glasses.
He’s fully aware that center Brook Lopez has been lost for the season with a broken bone in his right foot, and point guard Deron Williams did not make the trip as he recovers from his third sprained left ankle of the season.
Despite those setbacks, and the slow start, he remains cautiously optimistic and relentlessly driven.
“I still think we have a chance to win a championship, if, of course, the stars align,’’ Prokhorov said. “I think we like sport because, of course, it is unpredictable. So it’s unpredictable but possible.’’
Prokhorov met head on questions about his diminished presence at Nets' games this season. Some have interrupted it as a sign of disappointment.
But Prokhorov, who is serving as the president of Russia’s biathlon union, said he would attend more games after the Sochi Olympics. And he tweaked his critics.
“For information for you, do you really think you need me sitting in the arena to see a game?’’ he said. “My friends, we are living in the 21st century and despite of the fact that I have no computer I still have subscription for the NBA games. And for me it’s like enough to look at the stats and understand what is going on.’’
What went on at the start of the season was almost a disaster. Players were injured in startling numbers.
Rookie coach Jason Kidd made some mistakes, although he showed he was in control of the team by shuffling his coaching staff and implementing his own systems.
The low point probably was Christmas Day, when the Chicago Bulls blew the Nets out, 95-73, and the fans in Barclays Center booed the home team.
GM Billy King was shown repeatedly on TV. His decision to trade three No. 1 draft picks to the Boston Celtics for Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry was skewered. And the consensus was that Kidd was in over his head.
Prokhorov showed his support for both on Thursday when he chose not to address the team before the game. Like all good bosses, he lets those he’s put in positions of leadership do their job.
“It’s not my job,’’ said Prokhorov. “We have Jason Kidd. We have Billy King.
“Maybe only once I called Jason Kidd after very bad loss and I quoted him a very famous Russian writer who said, ‘Don’t read the Soviet papers before breakfast.’ In other words, don’t pay any attention for what they are writing about. Keep doing your job.’’
Kidd and King have kept on, with Prokhorov’s hand at their back. Prokhorov said that he and the team would do its best to make King the GM of the Year.
In Kidd, Prokhorov sees a coach growing before his eyes. He sees a team believing in that coach. And he is sticking to the beliefs that have made him a billionaire.
“Our goal, we only have one goal, the championship,’’ he said. “So I am very committed, and I will do my best in order to reach this.
“I know there are a lot of rumors, a lot of discussions and I think you can criticize me as much as you care. But there is only one rule.
“The very famous film writer William Goldman, he was asked about making a good blockbuster. And he said, ‘Nobody knows nothing.'"
"Why? Because you need to do your job. Collect the best people. You need just to make all the deals you like, and to invite the best people and maybe hope for luck will shine on you, and the pieces come together.
“But time will tell. This is the procedure for how to win championship.’’
And if the Nets don’t win it? Prokhorov said he would continue the pursuit. He said it is not solely about spending money. It is about spending money wisely, assembling the right pieces and then, hopefully, the stars align.
“You know, from what I’ve heard, I have no desire to sell the team,’’ said Prokhorov. “If you mean this, you can address this question to me as soon as I have a championship ring.
“But I am really quite happy with what I have, and I am really proud to be the owner of the Brooklyn Nets.’’