Prokhorov's Proclamation: An End to Trade Talks
January 19th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.— Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is proving himself a master of the moment, and nothing if not bold. At a press conference preceding Wednesday’s 103-95 victory against the Jazz, Prokhorov ended his opening statement with a bombshell, announcing he had instructed his staff to walk away – permanently – from season-long discussions about trading for Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. The prize, Prokhorov explained, had become too expensive.
“Really, I am not happy with the way the deal has gone until now,” Prokhorov said. “It has taken too long. It has been played out in public. Certainly it’s taken a toll on the players and I believe it has cost us several games. Games our team, I believe, for sure could win during this period of time.
“I think the management of the team did a great job. But I am instructing our team to walk away from the deal and the meeting that was supposed to be held by our management, tomorrow in Denver with Carmelo, is hereby cancelled.”
Prokhorov said the decision was his own, one he was able to reach being removed from the day-to-day details. His focus on strategy and big-picture decisions allowed him a clear picture of what needed to be done.
The owner said that he never spoke with Carmelo directly, and received only mixed information that complicated the situation. Prokhorov, who famously doesn’t use the Internet, joked that perhaps Anthony had e-mailed him … or sent a carrier pigeon that traveled astray.
Rumors of the talks first flared on the Nets’ Media Day in late September, but a reported four-team trade fell through, leaving the deal to simmer – and hang over each franchise’s collective heads – for the duration of the season so far. Yet Prokhorov refused to term the unsuccessful pursuit a failure, terming it instead a “great experience,” and directed reporters to General Manager
King insisted that the sides (and several ancillary ones, rumored to be the Jazz and Bobcats initially; the Pistons of late) had never reached an agreement, even as the team sought to meet with Anthony and “tell the story” they thought would convince him to join their cause. It was one that worked on several free agents this offseason, and also kept the players motivated despite a losing record and the ongoing distraction – King said that the agents of all except Troy Murphy checked in to express their desire to remain with the Nets.
“I think, on our roster, about every player except Brook was mentioned at some point,” King said. “So it comes a point in time for them where they’ve got to focus – it is their job, but they’ve got families that read and hear things that may or may not be true. And that’s what I care about – those guys and their families. They do have a job, they do get paid a lot to be professional, but to hear your name bantered around every day, your kids go to school, to hear dad’s name bantered around every day, whether it’s true or not, it’s not a good part of the business.”
King, who said he hadn’t seen anything like this – or covered like it – during his 16 years in the NBA, had wrestled internally with the idea of ending talks, and wasn’t startled when Prokhorov finalized the decision. As the team moves on to Plan B, King will continue assessing the current roster, also scouting the college ranks for talent – the Nets enter this year’s draft with two first-round picks, and have five in the next two years.
Those picks are among numerous assets, from young players to cap space, that have the Nets confident they’ll be ready to capitalize on any future opportunity that arises. King cited the examples of the Boston Celtics, who went from 24-58 in 2007 to NBA Champions in 2008, and the Miami Heat, who hadn’t escaped the first round since their 2006 title, but reshaped their team this summer through the free-agent acquisitions of All-Star forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
“We know that we have unbelievable cap space, unbelievable flexibility and unbelievable picks,” King said. “As I said when I got the job, ‘You want to have assets, because players become available.’ When the Lakers got Pau Gasol, they had the assets to get it done. That’s what you want to have and that’s what we do have.”