Prokhorov Gets The Last Laugh

By: 02.23.11  •  23 Comments

Since taking over as owner of the Nets back in May, Mikhail Prokhorov has desperately tried to make the team relevant. He flew in his private jet to recruit LeBron James this summer, had dinner with Carmelo Anthony at All-Star Weekend and put up his “Blueprint for Greatness” billboard across the street from Madison Square Garden. Up until today, all those attempts had failed to come across as anything more than excessive bravado that wasn’t paying off. No stars came (or wanted to come) to New Jersey, but now Prokhorov has finally followed through, and at least made the Nets worth talking about again with the acquisition of Deron Williams.

On the day when Carmelo is being introduced to the New York media, Prokhorov just delivered an uppercut to James Dolan. Dolan caved in to every one of Denver’s demands: Danilo Gallinari, draft picks, and even Timofey Mozgov at the end, all to keep ‘Melo out of New Jersey. Well, the Nets didn’t get ‘Melo, but what they got is something better: an all-pro point guard who can do for this franchise what Jason Kidd did for it in the early 2000s.

As a Nets fan, I absolutely love this trade. First off, as a point guard, Williams makes his teammates better. He is unselfish, and has great basketball instincts, but also has the ability to take over as a scorer when needed. While ‘Melo can drop 30 on any night, he wasn’t going to make Brook Lopez any better by taking 20 shots. Anthony is a me-first player, indisputably talented, but not the kind of leader that Williams is.

Secondly, after the Anthony trade fell through, the Nets were left looking for scrap heaps on the trade market. There were reports they would trade Devin Harris for either Caron Butler‘s expiring contract or Andre Miller and Joel Pryzbilla. Neither of those offers would have been enticing to any Nets fan, nor would they have made the team any better – short or long term. In this deal, they traded Harris and other pieces for an All-Star, a proven winner, a playmaker, and something the Nets can actually build around.

They also had to make this trade because there is no way the team could have dangled Harris and Derrick Favors out for as long as they did, then turned around and told them, “We still want you guys to be key pieces for us moving forward.” Those relationships were beyond repair, so they had to be traded. And to get back Williams in return is remarkable.

Lastly, in this trade the Nets didn’t end up with any bad contracts on their hands. In earlier versions of the ‘Melo deal, the Nets would have had to take on Richard Hamilton and/or Chauncey Billups‘ contracts, but either way getting those guys wasn’t desirable. Billups and Hamilton are both past their prime, and have contracts that would impede the team’s ability to sign free agents. Now, the Nets are still in great position salary wise, while having a franchise centerpiece to build around for the next 10 years.

So while Dolan imagined this day as his moment in the sun, it turns out Prokhorov one upped him. Instead of everyone having their focus on MSG today, the Knicks’ cross river rivals have stolen the show for the first time under their new owner. Hopefully, there will be more days like this to come for Nets fans, but for right now, I’m willing to enjoy seeing Deron’s name on the roster.

What do you think?

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