Friday, July 19, 2013

After press conference unveiling expensive new Nets, owner Prokhorov lauded (but what about all the public support?)

It's front-page news in the New York Times, the unveiling of the Brooklyn Nets' expensive new players, For Nets’ Prokhorov, $183 Million Is No Object:
It should be clear now that Mr. Prokhorov, a 48-year-old Russian billionaire, renowned playboy and aspiring politician, did not come on a peace mission. He came to conquer the N.B.A. by setting a standard for unbridled spending and general audacity.
That truth was unmistakable Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Nets introduced two pricey new stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to join the three pricey stars the team already had.
The Nets’ payroll next season will surge to a league-high $101 million, triggering a league-record luxury tax bill of about $82 million. In three years, Mr. Prokhorov has morphed from the N.B.A.’s international man of mystery into a Russian George Steinbrenner — only taller, richer and with a cool accent.
...Fourteen of the N.B.A.’s 30 owners are billionaires, according to Forbes. But few spend on their teams as eagerly as Mr. Prokhorov does, or with as much overt glee. There seems to be no limit to his largess, at least when it comes to assembling elite talent. Last summer, Mr. Prokhorov committed to $330 million in player contracts, including rich deals for Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, who were at the time the Nets’ biggest stars.
The Times article explains that the estimated $82 million penalty will be shared with lower-spending teams and the league at large. The Nets have sold all but 800 tickets below their self-imposed cap of 12,500-13,000. (Note how that cap is fluid.)

Painless spending

More importantly, Prokhorov's a billionaire. His spending is painless--not just as a strict business proposition but as part of shaping his media halo. As the Times notes, Forbes estimates that the move to Brooklyn increased the value of the team by 48 percent, to $530 million and Prokhorov claims "his investment had increased 'minimum, fivefold' since his purchase of the team and a share of its arena."

Arena employees gave out water to those watching
the press conference at the oculus outside
Is that merely investment genius? No. Prokhorov and his partner Bruce Ratner gain from the team's move to the nation's media capital, and a brand new arena primed for luxury suites and sponsorships.

All that makes it ever more curious that the city and state would provide subsidies, tax breaks, free or low-priced land, and triple tax-exempt financing to enable the Barclays Center and the larger Atlantic Yards project.

And it points out media myopia--a willingness to laud Prokhorov but not to examine uncounted savings on the arena that I estimate at more than $100 million--greater than the penalty the Nets are paying.

In the tabloids

Daily News columnist Filip Bondy wrote Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s win-at-all-costs mentality is reminiscent of late George Steinbrenner, calling him "a fan’s dream owner, an easy newspaper column, and something of a nightmare for James Dolan and every other league executive."

Yeah, an easy newspaper column for those who don't want to think too much.


New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, in Piece-ful dream closer to reality, wrote:
For the first time, it feels real. For the first time, this doesn’t seem like a fantasy-league trade or the rantings of a late-night talk-show caller. For the first time, they are inside Barclays Center, flesh and blood, words and thoughts and opinions, bookend Hall of Famers.
Bookend Nets.
“What’s up, Brooklyn?” Kevin Garnett asks.
“At this point, right now,” Paul Pierce says, “we’re all about winning a championship, and Brooklyn, we feel, gives us the best opportunity.”
...Here they are at Barclays Center, from where the Nets will launch a pointed assault on the Knicks, on the Eastern Conference, on the rest of the NBA.
...But, really, that’s going to be the fun part, watching them either figure it all out or fail spectacularly trying... Or maybe this really is just the start of something special. Here they are. It’s time to find out. Suddenly November can’t get here fast enough. And not only because it’ll be cooler then.
At the press conference

The press conference was excerpted on NBA.com. In one video, 15-year Celtic Pierce stated, "Obviously, I would have loved to end my career in Boston but y'know, that day and age is probably over with."

It sure is. Now, "at this point in our careers, we're championship-driven... Brooklyn, we feel, gives us the best opportunity."

The crowd outside watching at the oculus was, given the very hot weather, understandably modest. But there was a Nets store.


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