Earlier this week, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was in Brooklyn touring his team’s still-under-construction stadium and getting a lay of the land as the NBA’s Board of Governors get set to officially vote on the name change for the Nets and give the final OK for the team’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
This has not been the season Prokhorov likely wanted when he bought the Nets. New Jersey is going to miss the Playoffs for the fifth straight year and sit at 21-38. Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who is entertaining a run for president, is not used to this kind of futility.
More than that, Prokhorov had big dreams. He dreamed of pairing Deron Williams with free-agent-to-be Dwight Howard to open his new stadium and make his team a force and title contender — something the Nets have not REALLY been since Julius Erving was playing except for that run with Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson in the lineup.
Howard, obviously, opted to remain with the Magic for another year and sent the Nets into limbo.
That is because Deron Williams too wants to win. He is one of the best point guards in the league and a dynamic player that can make just about any talented team better. The problem is, New Jersey is not that talented of a team. Since the Nets acquired Williams, they are 28-56 — a .333 win percentage. That is not what Williams envisioned after the trade.
And patience for a player about to hit free agency can only take you so far. With Brook Lopez injured for almost the entire season and the team’s failure to acquire Dwight Howard, Williams will hit free agency this summer.
Bad things happen in threes, it seems, for New Jersey.
Prokhorov though met with Williams while he was in town and the two understand they both have the same goals.
“I think he wants to win, and he wants to be part of a great franchise,” Prokhorov told the Associated Press. “We have the same view on this.”
No doubt, this is generally the view all players and owners have for their teams. They all want to win and do whatever it takes to get there.
For the Nets to get there might take a little bit more though. Undoubtedly, New Jersey needs Deron Williams in the fold to have a measure of star power for the team’s new building and to attract other stars to Brooklyn. Williams has been great for the team too, averaging 21.2 points per game and 8.6 assists per game despite the team’s awful record.
The thing is, New jersey may not be able to convince Williams that a long-term investment in Brooklyn is his best way to get wins.
His hometown Mavericks are lurking with enough cap room to bring him back to the Lone Star State. That is even with Mikhail Prokhorov jokingly telling Mark Cuban that he will beat him in a kickboxing match if he wins this contest — “Let the best man win,” Prokhorov said of being challenged by Cuban. “If he wins, I will crush him in the kickboxing throw down.”
The allure of a franchise that has a winning track record — two Finals appearances, the 2011 championship and 11 consecutive 50-win seasks — might be too much for Williams to resist if he is indeed about winning.
The Nets squarely have their eyes on the summer with this season already lost. What Williams does will hold the team somewhat hostage.
What the Nets do have going for them is a chance to clear the decks some. They have only $9.4 million committed to next season if every player declines his option. This number does not include player options that Shawne Williams and Jordan Farmar can exercise next year or the qualifying offers they can offer Brook Lopez or Sundiata Gaines. Nor might it include the potential top three pick New Jersey could get in the Draft Lottery — Portland receives the pick if it is not in the top three as part of the Gerald Wallace deal.
Even if New Jersey loses Williams, they definitely will be players for whatever free agent they want to pursue.
The Nets may not have the splash they want — with or without Williams — for the Barclays Center opener. But the Nets might have their chance to bring the focus on winning in the very near future.