Mikhail Prokhorov has owned the Nets since May 2010, but his limited public comments have created the aura — and criticism — of an absentee owner.
He memorably spoke on Dec. 28, 2012 after making the decision to fire head coach Avery Johnson, with the Russian billionaire saying he had to cut a heliskiing trip short to attend to the state of the team.
Prokhorov delivered his first press conference since Jan. 12 before Monday’s home opener against the Thunder. Much has changed in the interim, including the departures of head coach Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce.
“You know, I think there is a nice proverb in English: Don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you,” Prokhorov said. “So, like I think each side did what we thought was the best, and I like what we have now. I think our structure is optimal. We have a very strong, experienced coach and very strong GM, Billy King. So, for the time being, we’re [adjusting].”
The owner has backed off on his championship talk either.
“I think everything is OK,” Prokhorov said. “I stay committed to the championship. I think if the stars align, we can do this. I think last year we have a couple of really bad injuries. We were not very lucky, but I think we were not the only team which suffered from the injury problem. What is good for us, I think, remains our organization that attracts great talent and great fans.”
The running joke with the 49-year-old is that he will get married in 2015 if the Nets don’t win the franchise’s first NBA title. In his tenure, the Nets have lost Game 7 to the Bulls at home in the first round and fell in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Heat last season.
“Between me and you, I haven’t sent for the new wife,” he joked. “And by the way, we have lost George Clooney. I think it’s enough for this year.”
Even with championship aspirations, there have been rumors Prokhorov is exploring at selling the team. Reports of a proposal for a partnership with Guggenheim Baseball Partners, the owner of the MLB’s Dodgers, surfaced before the season. The team is reportedly wortj $1.7 billion million dollars, aided by the rebranding in Brooklyn, after Prokhorov spent $223 million in cash for the initial purchase.
“As soon as we moved to New York, it was a great lift for us, from a business point of view,” Prokhorov said. “But of course you have to invest to be like the top teams of the NBA.”
It seems the Nets will remain Prokhorov’s focus for the time being, even with reports the team lost $144 million last year, largely because of the league’s luxury tax.
“It’s not a big deal just because I personally compensated this money from my pocket and that’s why I will keep the structure for the time being,” Prokhorov said.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.