MOSCOW (AP) New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov presented his team to the Russian public Sunday, meeting many of the players for the first time and reiterating a vow to turn them into a championship team in five years.
The Russian tycoon, who took over ownership in May, hosted an exhibition in Moscow where Nets stars including Devin Harris and Jordan Farmar participated in drills with local kids aged 8 to 18.
Prokhorov high-fived players when they were introduced and later described ambitious plans to make the playoffs in the coming season and win a championship by 2015.
“Our task is to become champions in five years. I hope we’ll do it,” Prokhorov said.
For on-the-court success, he’ll have his work cut out. The Nets were 12-70 last season, and missing out on LeBron James combined with a disappointing draft leaves many observers wondering exactly what will make them contenders this time around.
The promise of a new arena in Brooklyn, a new coaching staff led by Avery Johnson, and the raw aggression of a youthful roster, Prokhorov insisted, would ensure that “with a big fight, we’ll be in the playoffs next season.”
Success may hinge on the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony. When asked, Prokhorov hinted the Denver Nuggets All-Star was still a target despite The Associated Press being told last month by a person close to discussions that the deal was dead.
“We will use any opportunity to make the team stronger,” Prokhorov said, refusing to comment more specifically.
His ambition was already evident in the coach.
“We want Nets basketball to be the cream of the crop, of the NBA,” Johnson told The Associated Press, calling the playoffs target “realistic” but warning “nothing’s going to happen overnight.”
Johnson promised a more defensive-minded team with better 3-point shooting this season.
Harris, meanwhile, was upbeat about Prokhorov, praising him for pointing the team “in the right direction.”
“He’s a great owner. We can only go up from here,” he said. “Last year was a drag. … We’re correcting our mistakes and getting better.”
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