It would come as no surprise that the underachieving Brooklyn Nets would be looking to sell off some of their expensive veterans, but it now appears that the team itself will be going on the market. Sources have revealed to Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has hired the company Evercore Partners to assist in the process of selling the franchise.
Despite smashing through the luxury tax threshold with a staggering payroll north of $92 million this season, the Nets have been a disappointment since Prokhorov spent $223 million to purchase the team back in 2010. Brooklyn hasn't finished higher than 4th in a top-heavy Eastern Conference under Prokhorov's reign and are clinging to the final playoff spot this season. A six-game losing streak has dropped them to six games under .500 and their -2.5 point differential suggests they have no business making the postseason anyway. This is a team in dire need of a shakeup and it would appear Prokhorov has lost the desire to oversee it.
Nets officials are currently denying the report and have told ESPN that their owner is merely gauging interest at this point.
"As we have said for many months, ownership is always open to listening to offers -- that's just good business," a spokesperson for Prokhorov said in a statement. "There is nothing imminent in terms of a sale of any stake in the team."
That may be what the team is saying publicly for now, but several sources seem to be leaking information that suggests otherwise. Prokhorov's failed pursuit of a championship and the struggling Russian economy have been cited as reasons why he would consider selling the team. The Nets lost $144 million in basketball-related business in 2013-14 -- $131 million more than the next highest team -- according to Grantland.
So what does this mean for the Boston Celtics? Well, that partially depends on who buys the team, but it's hard to imagine any new owner having less regard for the luxury tax restraints than Prokhorov has had. Any ownership taking over a team residing in New York is going to be expected to spend money, but won't necessarily do so quite as recklessly. As a division rival, the direction this team ends up moving in will be of great interest to the Celtics.
An ownership change could also have an effect on the bundle of draft picks that Brooklyn still owes Boston. The Celtics own the Nets first-round draft picks in 2016 and 2018, along with the rights to swap picks in 2017. If a new owner comes in and decides to tear things down then it could make those draft picks even more appealing. The Nets roster is littered with expensive veterans that aren't good enough to make them a contender but are just good enough to prevent them from bottoming out for a top lottery pick. It's not an appealing situation for a new owner to take over, which means the Nets may start looking to shed payroll quickly in order to help facilitate the sale of the team.
If Brooklyn is forced to sell off veterans such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, it won't leave them with much to work with. Depending on how long a sale takes to complete, the process could also potentially prevent the Nets from being active in free agency after the season. Boston knows firsthand that rebuilding is a project that can take years to complete, so after the new ownership group takes a wrecking ball to this roster it could take time before they are ready to contend again. In the meantime, Boston has the most to gain from a lengthy rebuild that could put the Nets in the lottery during the three year stretch that Boston owns their draft picks.