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Prokhorov: The Progression of the Plan

July 13, 2010

NEW YORKPlan A was the obvious one: target the top three free agents (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh), try to sign two and advance quickly toward the stated goal of winning a championship within five seasons.

But James announced July 8 that he was joining forces with Wade and Bosh to play for the Heat, which came as no surprise to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who had already advanced to 'Plan B': skip overpaying the next tier to go young, athletic and aggressive while maintaining cap flexibility. Plans 'C' and 'D' remained available, if necessary, and Plan 'A' could be back on the board as soon as next summer.

"There is no contradiction between &lsquo:Plan A and &lsquo:Plan B," said Prokhorov on Tuesday at the Four Seasons. "I think we have great trade opportunities, really good trading assets and a really deep bench. Thats why Im satisfied. I understand that fans feel a little bit upset, a little angry maybe. But I think they will like this team very soon."

That plan resulted in a flurry of activity starting Thursday with the signing of 26-year-old free-agent forward Travis Outlaw and culminating with the acquisition of three-point marksman Anthony Morrow (24) from the Warriors. In between, the team added two other free agents: center Johan Petro (24) and point guard Jordan Farmar (23).

Prokhorov admitted the team continues to explore options at power forward, seeking a temporary starter who'll ease the burden on rookie Derrick Favors who turns 19 on Thursday as he adjusts to the NBA. The 6-foot-8 owner joked that he's too old to be considered for the post, noting he can earn more through business ventures than the league's salary cap allows.

Those other opportunities will keep Prokhorov thoroughly engaged once he returns to Russia and the Nets wrap up their search for a President/General Manager to replace the departing Rod Thorn. Though Prokhorov wouldn't acknowledge a definite timetable for any announcement, he did mention August vacation plans and having to complete several Russian business deals postponed by NBA duties (he's traveled to the United States four times in recent months).

The decision has been difficult. Prokhorov aims to hire a GM with "great ambition," who would also rank among the league's most skilled while able to handle the media pressures of the New York metropolitan area and wielding a vast network of players, agents and executives. He would only reveal the list has more than five names, that he's completed the interview process (following proper procedure with execs under contract) and Spurs GM R.C. Buford is not an option, saying the latter was "busy with San Antonio."

Prokhorov wishes Thorn could have stayed, but realized through their discussions that the President responsible for the 2002-03 Finals appearances that mark the franchise's only pair in 33 NBA seasons was ready for a fresh challenge. The owner understood, having undergone a similar personal transition following 10 years working with banks; that shift in focus led to his purchasing the Nets.

"I really wanted to keep him on," Prokhorov said. "Rod is one of the brightest in the league. But he was very straightforward: he had been working with the Nets for 10 years and it was time. I think he did a great job especially in this transition period. Im really satisfied (with his work). I will always consider him the Nets friend and he will have seats of honor in the new arena for all the Nets games."

Driven by the intellectual challenge of assembling a championship squad under the strictures of the NBA's salary cap and luxury tax within his stated five-year deadline, Prokhorov knows he will ultimately be judged upon results: championship, or no championship. That mindset allows him to focus on the endgame, concerning himself less with the procedures and processes as long as the team sticks to the plan ('A,' 'B,' 'C,' 'D' or some combination of the four).

With five years to win a title, Prokhorov feels no need to rush and overpay inadequate talent or make mistakes just to put together a "Top-5" team that could make a conference finals. He is instead solely pursuing a championship, and that's why he is comfortable with the Nets' offseason so far, citing the Celtics as a team that stayed smart and earned a ring after only two major moves.

While Prokhorov half-jokes about the "Russian Surprise Model" for franchise building he's about to unleash, he asks of Nets fans only this:

"Be patient. Support our team. We will win for sure. And trust me: next season will be completely different."

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