Prokhorov meets Williams, believes Nets will win
New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Deron Williams to discuss his future with the NBA team, but the Russian tycoon refused to say whether the All-Star guard gave any indication whether he would stay with the club after this season.
Prokhorov said the two met Monday, adding both have a tremendous desire to win which is something the Nets did not do enough this season. They are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday after he toured his nearly completed Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a hard-hat wearing Prokhorov said the Nets are like his building, a work under construction. He said the arena will be one of the best in the world, and his team will win an NBA title when complete.
The most immediate issue for Prokhorov's team is Williams, who is the Nets' lone star. He has the right to opt out of his contract after this season and he has said he will test the free-agent market.
While he has not said he will leave the team, Williams wants to play for a winner, and the Nets have to make strides in that direction.
''I think he wants to win, and he wants to be part of a great franchise,'' Prokhorov said. ''We have the same view on this.''
When asked about his meeting with Prokhorov after the Nets dropped a 107-88 decision to Philadelphia, Williams was petulant.
''Like I'm going to tell you,'' he said.
The Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban, whom Prokhorov refers to as a friend, are said to be interested in Williams if he became a free agent.
''Let the best man win,'' Prokhorov said of being challenged by Cuban. ''If he wins, I will crush him in the kickboxing throw down.''
The comment drew a huge laugh from the roughly 100 members of the media who attended the news conference in the now dust-covered atrium of the new arena.
The 46-year-old Prokhorov asked Nets' fans for patience, saying he was trying to find the right pieces to construct a champion, not just a playoff team. He said the Nets would have made the playoffs in this lockout-shortened season had it not been for injuries, the most significant being a broken foot that limited center Brook Lopez to five games.
Prokhorov has not done well on the NBA free-agent market.
He failed to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh two years ago and last season New Jersey could not reach a deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony before he was traded to the rival Knicks.
The Nets also were in the hunt to acquire perennial All-Star Dwight Howard from Orlando before the recent trading deadline. However, the center opted to stay with the Magic for another year.
Prokhorov said the Nets did meet with Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, but it was to discuss another one of his clients, Nene.
Now, there is Williams.
''Wait for the summer,'' Prokhorov said. ''I'll tell you all the details. For the time being, it's top secret for us.''
Prokhorov did not see his team play in person until this past weekend, staying in Russia to run for president. He added he watches the team play 80 percent of its games and he is involved in all the day-to-day decisions.
Despite a third-place finish to Vladimir Putin in the recent presidential election in Russia, Prokhorov said he still has political aspirations. He said the finish was a nice start and added that 20 percent of the Russian people want political change.
''I met a lot of people, now I know much better for different aspects of Russian life,'' Prokhorov said. ''They really deserve the changes. ''
Prokhorov also reached out to Nets fans living in New Jersey, asking them to continue to come and support the club as it heads to a new home after 35 years in the Garden State.
''I know some people are very skeptical,'' he said. ''But life is life, so I think we'll do our best to just persuade them to join us here.''
The 18,000-seat arena, which was built primarily for basketball, is scheduled to open on Sept. 28 with a concert by Jay-Z, a minority owner. The arena expects to have 220 events in its first year with concerts seating an extra 1,000 people.
Developer Bruce Ratner, who has partnered in building the arena and bringing to Brooklyn its first major sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957, said the arena will open on time. He believes it will be ready for some dry runs 30 days before the opening.
Prokhorov said the arena could be used for hockey, but there are no immediate plans to lure the Islanders from Long Island to Brooklyn.