Thursday, April 12, 2012

Prokhorov in Brooklyn: the conquering hero, except to one columnist paying attention

Well, Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov came to Brooklyn Tuesday to look at the under-construction Barclays Center arena and pretty much conquered the fawning sports press, with one notable exception.

(Prokhorov with Bruce Ratner, in photo from the Nets' web site.)

Here are some of the headlines, which hint at the low level of actual news:
The NY1 piece is particularly egregious, since it's not "his" arena (he's junior partner to Bruce Ratner in operating a nominally state-owned facility), nor does he "foresee" so much as "aspire" or "b.s."

The transcript and the Brooklyn reference

In saturation coverage worthy of a presidential press conference, the Daily News and the Post even provided a transcript, complete with Prokhorov's second-language locutions, such as "And I am proud to have a partner like Bruce Ratner and we can do together a great miracle."

One reporter apparently asked him, "Mr. Proky, in your visits what do you think of Brooklyn?" (It's apparently possible that a reporter is unable to pronounce the name Prokhorov, just as the Nets organization has a policy of calling him Michael rather than Mikhail.)

His answer:
So I think I read the article in the Daily News that said that every 9-out-of-10 Brooklynites quite happy for the arena for the team moving. And I feel that Brooklyn deserves a professional team since the time the Dodgers left in 1957. And of course I know there is some kind of skeptical criticism, and of course it’s impossible to make happy just everyone, but I hope as soon as we start our season, because it’s not only basketball, it’s a great cultural events to tennis and another opportunity to make this like center, the heart of Brooklyn. I think even those who are skeptical now will join us. So we’ll do our best, because for us the spirit of community is very important.
Prokhorov was well-prepared to cite and then distort shaky evidence (real estate fluffer Jason Sheftell's alleged random interviews of ten people), invoke the Markowitzian cliche of the Dodgers, and echo Ratnerian rhetoric. 

As for whether "those who are skeptical," he should have been at the Community Board meeting that night on the arena liquor license.

D'Alessandro's take

Star-Ledger columnist Dave D'Alessandro, who produced the piquant detail that Nets' huckster-in-chief Brett Yormark claimed to have never heard of P.T. Barnum, wrote Mikhail Prokhorov, like the Nets, is a work in progress:
As everyone knows, there’s no better substitute for substantive dialogue than a photo op and some glib remarks while standing in front of a construction site...
But glib is what Prokhorov does well, yet if you’re looking for something substantial, keep looking. He never gives the impression that he is in control of the Nets franchise, as even his clich├ęs — “It is easy to have a playoff team, but it is very difficult to have a championship team, so we need to be very patient and go step by step” — are diametrically opposed to what his GM practices.
So it occurs to you: Prokhorov can’t speak of the future because he knows very little about the present. He threw some names out there (Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks) to signify that he’s been paying attention, but overall, he still sounds less engaged than the average towel boy.
It’s time to admit the obvious: We’re talking about an absentee owner here, as this guy never really had any intention of doing much more than writing checks.
What D'Alessandro didn't get to is this: whatever happens, Prokhorov has already won. Articles about him begin by describing him as owner of a basketball team, not a billionaire who got his big boost through questionable means.

Questions for Ratner

According to the transcript, this was Ratner's opening statement:
Thank you all for being here. You’re right now standing in the Grand Atrium. You’ll see how large and beautiful it is. And then you come and get this magnificent view of the bowl. It’s tight, there will be a lot of noise there, a lot of action. It’s gonna be the most incredible arena in America, and maybe the world. But I’m not only here to tell you about the arena, I’m here to tell you about a partnership.
It takes teamwork to do something like this. From the very beginning it’s teamwork, and Iust want to say that probably, along this big journey, one of the best things I ever did, if not the best thing, was partner up with Mikhail Prokhorov. It’s not only because of the economics, that, of course, is good. But it’s because Mikhail Prokhorov, and his group, have been wonderful partners. We’ve worked together with real teamwork, and everything that I’ve ever done in life that’s been successful is about good teamwork and partnership. And so, with that, I’d like to introduce to you to, probably, the best partner I’ve had in my life, in terms of teamwork, working together, Mikhail Prokhorov.
According to the transcript, Ratner was asked "about the timeline for finishing the arena." His answer:
We’re opening on September 28, that’s the magic date. We’re going to open, as you all know, with a Jay-Z concert. We’ll probably be pretty substantially completed about a month earlier, and work out bugs for about a month. We’re on time and on schedule, and it should be done with no problem.
(Emphasis added)

The Times, however, erroneously reported:
But Bruce C. Ratner, the developer who sold Prokhorov 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of the arena, said that construction should be completed a month ahead of schedule, leading to a Sept. 28 opening with a Jay-Z concert.
More than that, the arena "substantial completion" date has been steadily nudged back--not that sports reporters would notice--and the schedule for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, an arena "opening condition," is so tight, the bridge could open without paving.

No AYR at the press conference

Why wasn't I there? I was told it was for "accredited media" only, so they wouldn't let me in.

Then again, Prokhorov, according to the boosterish NetsDaily blogger "Net Income," aka Bob Windrem, "appreciates bloggers in both sports and politics" and was welcomed to Prokhorov's luxury box. It apparently depends on the bloggers.

Prokhorov on video (via NJ.com)



The Brooklyn Paper angle

The last question of the press conference was this:
You planning to buy a place in Brooklyn? 
You know it’s just a great question for me, because the time being a rich Russian driving up the prices, so it’s not the best time to buy.
So the Brooklyn Paper, "accredited media," found an angle in Prokhorov isn’t looking for a Brooklyn pied-a-terre

The article described Prokhorov as "self-made," provoking my comment:
I don't think Prokhorov qualifies as "self-made." Sure, he's shown initiative and savvy, but oligarchs by definition have a lot of help. That's why they're oligarchs.

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