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AY resumes as sports story: Prokhorov era begins with a championship pledge, lottery bump, Boomberg welcome, eerie echo of Gehry

Atlantic Yards, as it was for so many months after word of the project emerged in July 2003 and the official announcement in December 2003, has again become a sports story, with news of the Nets and their colorful billionaire owner absorbing pages and pixels.

Bogus blight? Increasing subsidies? Development Agreement? State agency run by detached, unaccountable board with "truly amazing powers" in service to Russia's second-richest man? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Lottery bump

New owner Prokhorov quickly becomes face of Nets, said SportsBusiness Journal (via the Sporting News), and, indeed, Mikhail Prokhorov represented the Nets last night at the NBA lottery.

Despite the best chance at the first pick, given their league-worst record, the Nets unluckily got the third pick. That means they almost surely won't draft can't-miss prospect John Wall (subject of scenarios in which free agent superstar LeBron James is lured as a package), but they should have a shot at a very good player.

Still, as Mitch Lawrence noted in the Daily News, Prokhorov's pre-draft pledge to win an NBA championship within "one year minimum and maximum in five years" and to "turn Knicks fans into Nets fans" is "[n]ot looking good."

(I thought the plan was to grow enough of their own fans.)

The New York Post's George Willis implied that Prokhorov had absorbed some lessons from spinmeister-in-chief Brett Yormark:
Prokhorov has been the Nets owner for just a week and he's already good at spinning things. In his Russian accent, he called it "a great night for me," and stuck by his prediction the Nets will be a playoff team next year and win a world championship within five. Somehow that would have sounded more realistic if they'd landed the first or second pick.
ESPN.com's Ian O'Connor wrote of Prokhorov's pledge:
Only he sounded more certain in the video than he did on the post-lottery stage, surrounded by inquiring minds wanting to know about his big night gone bad.
Meeting with Bloomberg

Today Prokhorov will appear at a breakfast with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, developer Bruce Ratner, and tinier-than-even-before-slice-of-Nets owner Jay-Z, then later appear at a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan.

Chances of Prokhorov pledging to build affordable housing, as the Daily News urged? Very, very low.

Still, it would be prudent--and not much more of a blow to his pocketbook than a few lunches at Nello--for Prokhorov to make some contributions to the favorite charities of Bloomberg and/or Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and maybe even the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance.

Prokhorov: the video

Prokhorov, before the draft, distributed an unsmiling video message to fans expressing determination and bravado, promising a "first-class organization" and a "state-of-the art arena." He spoke carefully from a script.



"If everything goes as planned, I expect us to be in the playoffs next season and championship in one year minimum and maximum in five years," he declared.

Well, they're now on Plan B.

"There will be fans of the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn to Moscow and I feel pretty sure I can convince the very best of the best that the Nets are the place they want to be," he said.

Echo of Gehry

Asked in an NBA.com interview what his sales pitch would be to free agents, Prokhorov, reprising much from his earlier video, asserted two competitive advantages.

One involves the presentation of a global team with fans all around the world. The other? "We are creating the history, practically from scratch now," with a great desire to win.

(Emphasis added)

Surely Prokhorov didn't know that his words sounded eerily reminiscent of (now-departed) project architect Frank Gehry, who at the 12/10/03 inaugural press conference called Atlantic Yards an "extraordinary opportunity... to do housing, to do a mixed project and build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch and fit it into an existing fabric and make something special out of it."

Well, that got a little complicated. Did Gehry mean an 1100-space surface parking lot next to a historic district?



More video from NJ.com
New Jersey Nets get third pick in 2010 NBA Draft Lottery












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