Saturday, July 17, 2010

On the LeBron James saga and a strategic, unsuccessful media leak by the Nets

Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports, offers a long recap of the LeBron James saga, headlined Inside look at LeBron’s free-agent coup.

As Wojnarowski tells it, after the 2008 Olympics, James always wanted to go to the Miami Heat, to be joined by fellow stars, but was at least intrigued by the meeting with the Nets:
The New Jersey Nets – with owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z – were the first team to make a formal presentation to James at the offices of his LRMR marketing company in downtown Cleveland on July 1. This was the meeting that most intrigued James, because he had never been in the room with Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and new Nets owner. This was a self-made global tycoon, different than the rest of the owners, and this surely intrigued James.

Prokhorov was long, trim and athletic, and at 6-foot-9 inches able to look James in the eyes when greeting him for the first time. The Nets made a pointed, flashy presentation on the franchise’s eventual move to a new arena in Brooklyn and delivered a creative, if not embellished, explanation of how Prokhorov held a international blueprint for James on how to catapult him someday into the billionaire athlete that he always wanted to be.

For James, the problem with back-to-back presentations was his short attention span. Cavaliers coaches had always tried to keep film sessions short because James would drift away and lose interest. As the New York Knicks followed the Nets by repeating those themes with an array of power points and charts about accumulating wealth, James drifted in and out of focus. Later, James would tell Jay-Z that parts of New York’s presentation felt too redundant to New Jersey’s.

In this free-agent push for James, the Nets were something of a wild card, largely because of his close relationship with Jay-Z. In so many ways, James wanted to emulate the music mogul’s platform....

As it started to get back to Jay-Z that the Nets were trailing to the Heat and Bulls, a Nets official close to ownership – against the wishes of several peers – hatched a plan to leak the notes of a Prokhorov staff meeting to a media outlet. The leaked notes indicated that Prokhorov believed James’ brand would be diminished as part of a three-star team in Miami. What’s more, the notes also indicated what great respect Prokhorov had for Maverick Carter.
(Emphases added)

Prokhorov is self-made? I thought he made money, as 60 Minutes reported, "in a process that even Prokhorov's business partner admitted wasn't perfect, and probably not even legal under Western standards."

The leak


So, where did those notes go? Wojnarowski doesn't say, but the trail points to ESPN writer Chris Broussard, who wrote July 6, in the headline Prokhorov sounds off to inner circle:
In this historic summer of NBA uncertainty, one thing is clear to Mikhail Prokhorov: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will play for the Miami Heat next season.

Another of Prokhorov's beliefs is that if LeBron James joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, The King could win "two or three titles" but "diminish the LeBron brand" because he'd be winning with such a power-packed lineup.

..ESPN.com has obtained notes from the [Prokhorov conference call] from a league source, and they provide interesting insight into the perceptions of the NBA's newest, most fascinating owner -- who, above all, left his first foray into NBA free agency optimistic his Nets soon would be the home of James.

The Nets were the first of six teams to meet with James last week, and after what was, by most accounts, an impressive presentation, Prokhorov made these observations about James' decision-making process:

On the conference call, he categorized the options he believes James has before him:

• The "hometown angle" of remaining with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

• The choice to play with Wade and Bosh in Miami, where James would have a "very high chance to win two or three titles" but where he could also "diminish the LeBron brand."

• Joining the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks. These teams, according to Prokhorov, are similar from a basketball standpoint and he believes none of the three clubs has a clear-cut strategy for winning championships.

• Becoming a member of the Nets, who would give James the best opportunity to build a dynasty, become a champion and emerge as a global icon.

To assure James of winning, Prokhorov said the Nets would pursue a trade for Chris Paul. He admits it could "take a year for the young roster to grow" but that after adding the right pieces around James, the Nets could win the NBA title two years from now.
Best opportunity to build a dynasty?

That plan didn't exactly work out, though media outlets like the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, as NLG points out, seem to think the team is on Plan B.

The view from Cleveland

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst, in a recap headlined Inside 'The Decision': Miami's coup was a 'surprise' built on long-coveted goal of James, Wade and Bosh, suggests it started even earlier, at the 2006 World Championships. He offers the slightest mention of the Nets:
Though many thought James would seriously consider the Knicks and the Nets, part owned by friend Jay-Z, they were never in his top two. The way it looks now, the Cavs may not have been in the top two for much of the process. James did talk with Bosh about the chance of playing in Cleveland, but Bosh resisted, and James seemed to be more attracted to teaming up with his friends than staying home.

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