05/19/2010 3:42 PM ET
Prokhorov greets media with a smile
New Nets owner cracks jokes at news conference
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov told reporters he plans to steal some fans from the rival Knicks. (AP)

NEW YORK -- During an hour-long news conference in the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov held court on everything from LeBron James to Jay-Z to the Nets' move to Brooklyn.

Appearing calm and confident despite failing to land the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, Prokhorov repeatedly talked about his "global" vision for the Nets and cracked more one-liners than Chris Rock on a good night.

A room full of journalists furiously scribbled the comments of the Russian mogul, the first non-North American NBA owner and a man worth a reported $13.4 billion. With his pale complexion, serious demeanor and furrowed brow, he has been compared to a James Bond villain.

"America, I come in peace," he joked when asked about Russians' taking over foreign sports franchises.

Will he pursue James in free agency?

"I didn't catch you," he said, flashing a wry smile. "I never heard this name. The NBA rules say that I'm not allowed to put any name of a free agent."

Later, when asked by a Russian journalist if he would pursue a "big-name" free agent, Prokhorov sounded as if he would go full tilt for James with the $26 million the Nets have in salary-cap space.

"I am pretty sure that I can convince the very best of the best that the Nets is the place to be," he said. "I have my own secrets."

He repeated his mantra that he expects the team to make the playoffs next season despite finishing an NBA-worst 12-70 this season and added that he expects an NBA title within five years "maximum."

Prokhorov was flanked by Ellen Pinchuk, his translator and public relations representative.

Asked what NBA players he grew up following, Prokhorov talked about meeting Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird at the draft lottery.

"He was one of the players I used to love watching on video tape recorder when I was a teenager in Soviet Union," he said.

What are his plans for hiring a coach and, the Russian reporters asked, would he consider hiring a fellow Russian to run the team?

"My goal is to bring the best," he said. "If some Russian managers can compete with NBA managers, they have a chance."

Prokhorov met New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday morning for breakfast and even joked that he might give the mayor the coaching gig.

"If he is interested in coaching the team, I will pay him pretty well," he said.

Prokhorov indicated that former coach Kiki Vandeweghe would not be retained but that Nets president Rod Thorn will remain.

"He's one of the great guys in the league," Prokhorov said of Thorn. "He is a real professional."

What about getting the No. 3 pick in the draft instead of No. 1 and the chance to grab Kentucky point guard John Wall?

"By the way, a few years ago there was a player who was drafted the third and he did pretty much in his career," he said. "His name was Michael Jordan. Maybe you've heard about him."

As for his relationship with Nets' minority owner Jay-Z, he said, "We met him twice socially. In spite of the fact that I'm very far from rap music, we have a lot in common - we are both self-made.

"We are both shareholders and I share his passion for Brooklyn," he said. "I hope as shareholders we can do a lot for the team together."

Prokhorov repeatedly talked about his fondness for Brooklyn, which has a strong Russian population and an international flavor.

The team will play at the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two years before moving to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

To those who opposed the building of the Atlantic Yards site, he talked about using the area to promote "social and cultural events" as well as basketball.

"It will add a lot to the community, affordable houses, jobs," he said. "It will be a great opportunity for the small- and mid-size business ... I hope in two years they will change their minds and support us."

And what about the New Jersey fans once the team goes to Brooklyn?

Prokhorov said he hoped to "convince them to stick with us when we leave, and we don't want to lose any New Jersey fans."

Will he keep the name of the team even when it moves to Brooklyn?


Does he plan to stick it to the Knicks?

"We're going to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans. It's part of success."

Prokhorov spoke repeatedly of "team spirit," but when asked to define what that meant to him, he again went coy.

"It's not my time to reveal all my secrets," he said. "I would have the comment as soon as I win NBA title."

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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