NBA defends Russian tycoon

The NBA believes a New Jersey congressman was “misinformed” when he

criticized the potential new owner of the Nets for business

dealings in Zimbabwe.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell asked Treasury Secretary Timothy

Geithner on Sunday to investigate whether Russian tycoon Mikhail

Prokhorov violated U.S. economic sanctions by doing business in the

southern African nation run by President Robert Mugabe.

The congressman also sent a letter to NBA commissioner David

Stern asking if the league’s background checks uncovered

Prokhorov’s businesses in Zimbabwe.

League spokesman Mike Bass said Pascrell was misinformed

discussing the sanctions.

“U.S. companies are not prohibited from doing business in

Zimbabwe; rather, they are prohibited from conducting business with

specifically-identified individuals or entities in that country,”

Bass said. “The NBA is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov

is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or


Prokhorov agreed last December to buy 80 percent of the Nets

and 45 percent of the planned Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.,

from Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Ratner Cos.

“Mr. Prokhorov’s application is still on track to be voted on

by the NBA Board of Governors once a firm date is set for the State

of New York to take full possession of the arena site,” Bass said.

Prokhorov’s Onexim Group said it has been open and

transparent about all their business dealings throughout the

extensive NBA review process and they intend to maintain that


“Onexim Group takes very seriously the issue of law and

sanctions as applied to Zimbabwe,” it said in a statement.

“Contrary to erroneous media reports, the company and all of its

holdings have always been in strict compliance with all United

States and European rules regarding Zimbabwe and have had no

dealings whatsoever with companies or individuals on the sanctions


Prokhorov has been seen as somewhat of a savior for the Nets,

who will be at least $23 million under the salary cap heading into

the offseason. The billionaire has the money to spend on free

agents, and this might be a bumper crop with LeBron James, Dwyane

Wade, Chris Bosh and Rudy Gay all eligible to go on the market.

For much of this season, the Nets threatened to break the NBA

mark for fewest wins (nine) in a season, set by the 1972-73

Philadelphia 76ers.