New Jersey Nets: Springboard to Russian Hoop Revolution?

The Russian is Coming. The Russian is Coming.  Holy Trotsky!

Bruce Ratner's 'Stal-lin' is over. The Nets will be 'Putin' new ownership in place.  Will they be 'Pushkin' the ball up court with a new team attitude? The quintessential 'also rans' will be rumbling with rubles.

Is an Andre Kirilenko trade on the Nets horizon? With Yi Jianlian, they would give 'eastern bloc' a new meaning.

Would Devin Harris be exported to Siberia for lackluster defense?

Will perogies borscht be hawked by Net aisle vendors? (Someone stop me - please! I've opened my mouth and I can't shut up!)

We all know that the New Jersey Nets have had a uniquely bad history when it comes to fan support. Fans-in-the-stands numbers are more deceptive than mortgage derivatives were a few short months ago. The team continues to lose money.

So it should be no surprise that owner Bruce Ratner wants out. That he sold the team for a cool $200 million is to his advantage.

That "the most interesting man in the world", Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, (i.e. the richest Russian), has purchased the majority share in the NBA's very own gulag known as the New Jersey Nets makes it all that much more interesting. He is your average 6' 7", 45 year old, flamboyant Russian bachelor worth $9.5 billion. Oh yes, I will say it.              He was ....thirsty my friends....for American hoops.   (Everyone who just groaned will be added to the KGB surveillance list.)

( Commissar David Stern has given it a (Russian Orthodox) blessing.

David Stern, who has expanded the league’s television, retail and other business units overseas, said he welcomes the Russian businessman to the league.

"Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis," Stern said in a press release. "We are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov’s commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia."

That Mikhail obtained his money in a somewhat dubious way adds interest, though that is how all post Soviet mega-rich Russians seemed to have obtained their money. Honesty is a foreign word there. With the economic breakdown in the U.S. it could be considered a foreign word here too.

In the article by By Curtis Eichelberger and Yuriy Humber, Mikhail says that ....

    he would use ownership in the Nets to promote the game in Russia.

    "We must change the model of basketball development in Russia using super-modern systems of coaching," Prokhorov said. "The base for such development should be a strong youth basketball league."

I can just picture that cold, emotionless voice of the Russian leaders in Rocky IV saying that. "We will break you." And Drago punches the calibrated machine and it goes off the charts.

"We vill change mudel of basketbul development with super-modern ballistic and anti-missle systems. You cannot stop us."

With NBA height of his own, this playboy entrepreneur looks like he could have played the game himself. That he is buying 45% of the new Brooklyn Nets arena (Barclays Center) as well, makes him smart as well as tall. The real money is in that arena, BTW. By his own rumored admission, he might be the only NBA owner who can dunk. (Forgetting MJ, eh comrade?)

That he has a bottomless nickel mining pool of dollars could change the total future outlook of the Nets in a way that Mark Cuban buying the Mavericks did for Dallas. Remember how bad the Mavericks were? If Mikhail makes that kind of commitment, the Nets will challenge the Knicks locally and the NBA generally for something they have lacked forever – real respect. As Cuban did, will he commit to an ultramodern, spare no expense approach to his U.S. team?

It is way too early to make those kind of predictions. But why let that stop me? Let’s fantasize the inglorious swampland past to a glorious Brooklyn Net future.

As noted in the Bloomberg article, Brighton Beach, a section of New York known as Little Odessa, is not that far away from where the new arena is planned.

The move has been bogged down by local opposition and a reduced financial ability by Ratner. It will be interesting to see how things change (or stay the same) with a new financial juggernaut dropped into the process.

The sale is expected to pass approval of the NBA owners in the first quarter of 2010.

As a former owner of Moscow’s CSKA basketball team, Prokhorov is quite familiar with the game.

China has always intrigued me as a mega growth opportunity for the game. Could Russia become a new force as well? I really know very little about basketball in Russia. Will they trade in their hockey sticks for the warmth of in-door basketball? Will the parks of St. Petersburg be rockin' with bouncing balls and hoop courts?

Mr. Prokhorov has said that a strong youth league will be critical. Will he want to follow the U.S. model (public school and AAU programs)? or the Euro model (early sponsor contracts and long term development in age level leagues) ?

There are so many possible long term implications that can come from this that it opens itself to wild-eyed conjecture. Remember when the Russians were the top competition in the Olympics? Oh yeah, that was when Russian meant the Baltic countries’ players, too.

Let your greedy capitalist minds run wild on this one. Will there be a new Net Manifesto? Could it even mean….Hello Lebron for the Nets?

Let the revolutionary thoughts begin.

Bonus Link: Follow this story as it develops on

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