Friday, April 02, 2010

From Dave D'Alessandro's mailbag: on Prokhorov and the Brooklyn move

From the Mailbag of the Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro:

Hey Dave: Very suspicious about this Prokhorov guy, aren’t you, my man? You just warming up to be the killjoy next year?

Neither, Tully. But even you have to admit this cloying affection he’s received has a Jonestown vibe to it. Obviously, it’s nice to have an owner with a bank account and a competitive nature, and I love the idea of an owner coming from another culture, because that’s what a global league should be about. But it’s not so nice to have an owner who readily admits he could cash out in five years because he’s operating this venture as a business and nothing more – which in the end will look like a metaphorical middle finger directed at his fan base. I’m not naïve enough to think that owners operate their teams as a public trust anymore, but anyone who uses the term “strategic investment” when it comes to sports deserves some strategic skepticism. Let’s just wait to see what he does with management before we pull out the pom-poms: If he brings in his gaggle of junior managers to learn the ropes under Thorn (who, by the way, should be given the courtesy of picking his own staff, if not his successor) this could easily turn into a debacle. It will be Mikky’s first big decision, and it will speak volumes about whether he cares more about “strategic investments” than he does the NBA virtues as tradition, management discipline, team chemistry, fan loyalty, etc.

I'd add to that "strategic skepticism": Prokhorov's investment, like the Barclays Center naming rights deal, aims to use the Brooklyn team as a springboard to do vastly more business in the United States. Judging from the initial, mostly rapturous press reports, he's succeeding.

Brooklyn ambivalence
Dave - I grew up in N.J., and Dr. J was my favorite player growing up. I have always been a fan of the Nets, though more of an observer lately. I now live in Brooklyn, and I feel ambivalent about the team moving here. Even if they bring LeBron, Wade, or whomever. As you said, something seems a bit strange about it all.
Peter Spencer

This reminds me of another tale of ambivalence, Pete. After leaving the groundbreaking ceremony, I ran into a very pleasant, 40-something woman named Angela diagonally opposite Freddy’s on 6th, and she said she was about to lose her job because of the Yards. But she came to a surprising conclusion about her plight: “It’s OK. I’ve been here all my life, and I always noticed people are afraid of change. But we need new development around here, as long as it produces the jobs they’re promising.” Then she let out a big laugh and said, “Of course, then my (a racially anatomical term that rhymes with “slack grass”) won’t be able to afford to live here no more.”
Well, "people are afraid of change" is simplistic, but if that's her experience, so be it.

It's still a false dichotomy, since the battle has not been between change and no change, but how that change might come, with or without the involvement of local elected officials and with or without a plan that comes from a public process or a single developer.

As for the "jobs they’re promising,” not exactly.

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