By Ryan Schneider
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It’s about time. For the last eight months I’ve heard nothing but talk from Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “We are going to win a title within five years,” he said when he sat down with 60 Minutes over the summer. Yea, ok, sure, with what army? A lot of people have scoffed at Prokhorov and his outlandish predictions. It didn’t help that his biggest acquisition during the most anticipated off-season in NBA history was Troy Murphy.
Remember Ivan Drago, the confident spewing Russian nemesis in Rocky IV? He was confident, arrogant, and assumed he was unbeatable. I couldn’t help but think of Prokhorov in a similar light. This man came in confident, with all the money in the world, and assumed he would have superstars begging to don a Nets jersey. He certainly came in with gusto. How many people do you know who would splurge on a giant billboard and dangle it in front of the basketball Mecca with the words, “Blueprint for Greatness.”
You can commend Prokhorov for his cockiness, or shake your head at his lack of understanding. See the Nets have been a laughingstock. There is nothing more to say about a franchise that earns their coverage for being amongst the worst of all-time. You have a blueprint for success? Show us, stop talking about it…
It got even worse over the weekend. Prokhorov swooped in to meet with Carmelo Anthony, and came away empty…for the third time! Talk about a swing and a miss. Take the hint… ‘Melo didn’t want New Jersey. I was openly shaking my head at his comment, “I think we made a very good tactical decision to force (the) Knicks to pay as much as they can,” Prokhorov said, “So it’s good, it’s very interesting, it’s very competitive.”
Competitive? Competitive? How? The Nets, after six months of this “blueprint for greatness” are awful. You know it’s bad when after a blockbuster trade your owner is commenting on a “good tactical decision.” The outspoken owner had come up empty yet again in his quest to mold the Nets into an Eastern conference player.
But now my friends, the laugh is on us…Deron Williams is heading to the Nets and quite frankly I am shocked. For the first ten minutes I was without words…could it really be? There had not been one report, one rumor, one anything surrounding this deal, but lo and behold Billy King got it done. The Nets put together a legitimate offer that includes one heck of a young prospect in Derrick Favors, an unhappy point guard begging to get out, Devin Harris, and two-first rounders. In return, they get one of the top 3-point guards in the NBA.
Deron Williams has proven that he can be a franchise player. He is having a career year in points per game (over 21) and is a shade below 10 dimes per. Aside from being an all-around star, he brings playoff experience…his rookie season aside, Williams has participated in the postseason every year in this league. His numbers in the “second season” are staggering. In 44 playoff games, Williams has averaged over 21 points per game (up from his career regular season average of 17.3) and 9.6 assists, all while playing in what has been the toughest conference in the league.
Williams will join a team that essentially has no chance of making the playoffs this year. The Nets find themselves nine games out of the last spot. Even with the acquisition of one of the best point guards of the league, nothing short of a miracle will get Avery Johnson’s squad into that eighth position. However, the future is a lot brighter for an organization that is far removed from the glory days of Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles and a young Kenyon Martin.
Brook Lopez has become one of the better young talents in the league. Despite his drop in rebounding efficiency, Lopez should still be considered one of the best players under 23 in the NBA. In only his third season he is averaging 19.4 points a game while shooting almost 48% from the floor. A solid big-man and a great point guard are the first few ingredients to building one heck of a five-course meal.
The Nets have been living in the Knicks’ shadow for the last eight months. While the Knicks were spending on Stoudemire and Felton, the Nets were left with a big wad of cash that nobody wanted. While the Knicks were showing significant signs of improvement, the Nets were sliding back into the cozy confines of 12th place…
I wouldn’t go as far to say the Nets have stolen the Knicks’ thunder…especially on a day when the Garden will welcome Carmelo back to the city of New York. However, Prokhorov has a fierce desire to overtake the Knicks as the premier basketball franchise in New York. Every move he has tried to make, or franchise decision, has been done in attempt to steal the attention away from the Knicks. After months of talking, erecting billboards, and failed trade proposals, Mikhail Prokhorov can finally let his actions speak for him.
While I commend Billy King and the Nets organization for getting this deal done, I wonder how Deron Williams will handle this situation. Here’s one of the most talented players in the league in the midst of a playoff race, heading to Newark, New Jersey, where he joins a team looking way up at the eighth spot. One might think that the fallout caused by the Jerry Sloan retirement was enough to ruffle feathers in the Jazz front office. Enough to send a superstar point guard packing…
As we get closer to this evening’s event at Madison Square Garden let’s try to put this in perspective. Carmelo Anthony, a player that has been coveted by Knick faithful since LeBron’s decision, will be announced in the Mecca. It may just be the most exciting player introduction since Patrick Ewing first stepped onto the Garden floor in 1985. Surely the fans from around the city will be tuning in just a couple of minutes early just to make sure they can hear the Garden roar when number 7 is announced tonight.