Prokhorov Showing Shades Of Steinbrenner As Team's Payroll Leaps To League-High $101M
Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "came to conquer the NBA by setting a standard for unbridled spending and general audacity," which is reinforced by the fact that the team's payroll next season is now set to "surge to a league-high $101 million," according to a front-page piece by Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The payroll, which will trigger a league-record luxury tax bill of about $82M, will go up because the team's "two pricey new stars," G Paul Pierce and F Kevin Garnett, who were officially introduced on Thursday, will "join the three pricey stars the team already had." Prokhorov since joining the NBA has "morphed ... into a Russian George Steinbrenner -- only taller." He said, "I’ll do whatever I can do in order to reach [a] championship here in Brooklyn." Beck reports the estimated $82M tax will be "more than triple what the Nets paid in luxury taxes for the last 11 seasons combined." Even more "jarring is that the Nets’ spending spree comes two years after a costly lockout." NBA owners "fought hard two years ago for a restrictive system that would rein in the big spenders and narrow the gap between the highest and the lowest payrolls." However, Prokhorov has "blown that premise to smithereens." He said that his investment had "increased 'minimum, fivefold' since his purchase of the team and a share of its arena" in '10. The Nets as of Monday had "seen a 27.2 percent spike in season-ticket sales and a 41.4 percent increase in season-ticket revenue compared with this time last year, much of it coming after the trade" for Garnett and Pierce. They have "about 800 season seats left before hitting a self-imposed cap between 12,500 and 13,000." The NBA's new system "will provide some benefit to the less-wealthy teams." Half of the Nets' tax payment -- about $41M -- will be "redistributed to the teams that stay below the tax line" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19).
PLAYING BY THE RULES: ESPN N.Y.'s Mike Mazzeo reported Prokhorov "made a last-minute decision to attend" Thursday's press conference to introduce Pierce and Garnett. The Nets have "sold more than $3 million in full season tickets since the official announcement." The team said that "around 175 media members attended" the press conference (ESPNNY.com, 7/18). Prokhorov said, "I have done what I can. Now I think it is high time for the team to do the rest." He added, "I respect all the NBA rules and we play by the NBA rules. But I want just to stress again like with (the) luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win (a) championship, but under the NBA rules. Please make no mistake about this" (N.Y. POST, 7/19). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "The Nets will launch a pointed assault on the Knicks, on the Eastern Conference, on the rest of the NBA" (N.Y. POST, 7/19). In Boston, Mark Murphy writes the Nets at Thursday's press conference "played what sounded like a John Williams overture over the Barclays Center sound system." The Nets "boast a certain flair that most other teams lack." Pierce "likes what he sees." He said, "Just pulling up out front today, you can see them selling our jerseys. You can see the fans lining up" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/19). In New Jersey, Steve Popper writes while the Nets' press conference was held "on the floor of Barclays Center with a live feed sent out to the street above, it was conducted with a bit of class and restraint." There was "no effort to mimic the show the Miami Heat put on when they gathered their Big Three together for the intro and it resembled a bad music video." The "championship aspirations were on clear display Thursday, but it was a more mature performance." The Nets have attempted to put together a "dream team that provides legitimacy to the massive marketing push that accompanied the move to Brooklyn last year." Prokhorov: "In the NBA, money, it’s important, but you can’t buy a championship only spending money" (Bergen RECORD, 7/19).
NEW-AGE NETS: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the Nets "won the press conference" Thursday, and starting in October, fans will "find out what else -- if anything -- they will win." Beyond that, "all we know about Prokhorov's impersonation of the late George Steinbrenner -- outspend everyone, win the back pages and ask questions later -- is that it's earned the jealousy and ridicule of those who can only see conspiracies behind the revelry." The NBA "will not investigate Prokhorov's bold assembly of talent," unless and until another team "files a complaint about it." If anyone is "truly crying now over Prokhorov's massive spending, shame on them" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/18). On Long Island, Barbara Barker writes Prokhorov "did not seem to be terribly concerned" about the team's luxury tax (NEWSDAY, 7/19). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes Prokhorov is "unrepentant, even lighthearted about his monetary mischief." He is a fan's "dream owner, an easy newspaper column, and something of a nightmare" for Knicks Owner James Dolan and "every other league executive." Prokhorov is the "closest thing we have around here to the late George Steinbrenner" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/19).
OTHER TEAMS WATCH WARILY: In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes the Nets' moves will cause "anxiety attacks" in 29 other NBA suites where other teams' execs "look at Brooklyn in worried fascination." Prokhorov "may be clueless about the game itself, but he understands that the middle of the pack is the worst place to be." D'Alessandro: "The money is insane, and there are 29 owners cursing him today." He wonders what NBA Commissioner David Stern "heard from his pals from Oklahoma at the Board of Governor’s meeting last night in Vegas?" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/19). In Miami, Joseph Goodman writes, "Here’s the globalization of the NBA in all its wonderful fury: A man born and raised in Soviet Russia is now the most aggressive spender in the league" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/19). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes he loves what Prokhorov has done, as he is "simply sailing over the salary cap and straight into the luxury tax, finances be damned" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/19). ESPN N.Y.'s Johnette Howard wrote under the header, "No Joke, Prokh Steals The Show." Howard asked of Thursday's press conference, "You didn't really think Prokhorov would miss this, did you?" The event was "carried live in the New York area, and on a national feed, and even in places as far away as China and (of course) Russia" (ESPNNY.com, 7/18).