Tuesday, January 12, 2016

After Prokhorov appearance and another loss, Nets part of different "conversation"

Well, the night after team owner Mikhail Prokhorov met the press (video, transcript, letter to fans) and pledged to do better, the Brooklyn Nets played the anti-Nets, the well-constructed San Antonio Spurs, and, as the New York Post put it, lost badly: Nets’ interim coach’s job begins with miserable thud.

The Nets do have a strategy of sorts: find a new coach and GM, and rebuild, using the same new cap space every team has, dropping Joe Johnson's albatross contract, and adding the lure of New York, a new arena, and a new practice facility. But that's relatively small beer, and lots of analysts are skeptical.

For me, it's been hard not to look at the various promotions ("Hello Brooklyn," "We Are Brooklyn," "Represent Brooklyn," etc.), without increasing cynicism about the Nets' attempt to commodify their home borough. Perhaps the dramatically changing cast of coaches, executives, and players will remind people that this is a (publicly subsidized) sports entertainment business, not a civic utility.

SBNation's Tom Ziller offered the summary, with a chart, Mikhail Prokhorov's absurd expectations doomed the Nets:
Prokhorov demanded instant results. [GM Billy] King did everything he could to deliver that. So it goes. The price of failure was steep, and the bill will continually come due through 2018. King botched the [Gerald] Wallace deal completely -- we knew immediately that was a recipe for heartache -- and the trade with the Celtics will have its own wing in the Hall Of S--t You Should Never Do as An NBA GM. The [Deron] Williams trade was and is fully defensible. Most teams without a top point would have taken that bet, and the Johnson deal didn't end up costing Brooklyn much. But those other two deals doomed the Nets for the foreseeable future.

New York's Joe DeLessio, in With Nets in Turmoil, Mikhail Prokhorov Has Become the Worst Version of George Steinbrenner, wrote:
Prokhorov didn’t sound like a completely changed man, though. He said he didn’t want to rush things when filling these key personnel positions, but then also said, “I’m sure, for the next season, we’ll be, I hope, a championship contender.” Old mentalities, it seems, die hard.
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck (former NY Times) wrote skeptically, Despite Changes, Nets Won't Move Forward Until They Admit Failures of Past:
Alas, audacity is no substitute for a winning plan. And as Prokhorov met the media again Monday morning—24 hours after firing his coach and his general manager, with the Nets mired in the muck—he still had no concrete plan to offer.
"I think that I want us to have firmer, a much firmer blueprint of what kind of players we're looking for," Prokhorov said.
Blueprint. There was that word again.
He also said "championship"—seven times in 20 minutes—audacious even amid crisis.
Under the circumstances, it rang hollow, as empty as those thousands of black seats lining the Barclays Center... With no elite talent on the roster and no first-round draft picks of their own until 2019, they are arguably the most hopeless team in the league.
Beck suggested that the Nets--who are covered regularly by only two of five daily papers--cash out by trading their two most marketable players, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, for draft picks.

Deadspin didn't buy Prokhorov's claims:
“You know my business approach. I try to invite the best people I can find in the market, and give them some amount of time to make decisions. I don’t interfere in the day-to-day routine. But after some amount of time, I have to look at the reality and make a change if things are not going in the right direction. That’s what we have done. It was just very easy. And of course, if we look for the team for the time being, it’s clear that we’re doing not the best way.” 
If this is indeed Prokhorov’s business approach, he certainly didn’t implement it in Brooklyn. Billy King isn’t a particularly accomplished general manager, and nobody would confuse Avery Johnson or Lionel Hollins for elite coaches. The aforementioned true power in the front office has no previous basketball experience. And the only inspired hiring, of the then-just retired Jason Kidd as coach, blew up when Kidd left after just one year.
The Wall Street Journal suggested Nets Aren’t the NBA’s Worst Team—But They Soon May Be:
Two teams have a worse record than the Nets this season, though those franchises have more favorable draft prospects. The 76ers, who have the NBA’s worst mark, could own as many as four first-round draft picks this year. The Lakers, owners of the NBA’s second-worst record, have also mortgaged future assets, but will at least retain their pick this year if it lands in the top three. (If it doesn’t, it heads to Philadelphia.)
But Hardwood Paroxysm suggested Eh, the Brooklyn Nets are gonna be fine:
The Nets aren’t going to be a contender for quite a while. Probably not a playoff team, either. But where they’re at now doesn’t equate to ten years of darkness where basketball apathy roams uncontrollably, haunting the… whatever.
Arena/team CEO Brett Yormark, according to the Record, remains optimistic, though he admits, using one of his benchmarks, that the Nets have regressed:
“Now we just need to reset some things on the player/personnel side that creates the right culture, the right identity, the right leadership,” Yormark said. “And I think we get there. And I think we become part of the conversation relatively quickly again and then we can move forward.”
And maybe it's time to distrust nostalgia, writes Filip Bondy for the Times, in an article headlined online as  Two Teams in Search of Sports-Obsessed Brooklyn and in print as "Hardly a Sports Hotbed Now, if It Ever Was." Bondy points to the decline--in final years--of Dodgers attendance (here are stats) and wonders:
So there is hope. If nothing else, Brooklyn is resilient, resourceful, ever-changing. As one neighborhood is gentrified, another welcomes a fresh batch of struggling settlers.
Does Brooklyn have the passion, the population and the demographics to marry a professional franchise? Did it ever? We may not know that answer until the Nets find a point guard, or Tavares beats the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Then, those mythical Brooklyn fans better show up, create a fresh narrative. Otherwise, Walter O’Malley was right.
He also throws Brett Yormark a valentine:
The troubles are not for a lack of trying on management’s part. Brett Yormark, chief executive of the Nets and Barclays Center, has targeted disparate communities in the borough. He has launched promotions and community outreach programs. Pat Singer, founder and executive director of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, recently received a batch of discount tickets to distribute for the Islanders games.
“I think it’s going to build,” Singer said. “There’s something about a hometown team.”
Oh, come now. Depends on the discounts, and whether those low-price tickets are obstructed views. Remember, the advent of Russian-born Andrei Kirilenko with the Nets was supposed to spark a boom in Russian fandom.





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