Mikhail Prokhorov, New Nets owner, is smart, lucky, not so scary

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The “Mikhail Prokhorov — Get To Know Me” campaign is in full swing.

Last night he was on 60 Minutes towering over Steve Kroft. Next week he will featured in Bloomberg Markets Magazine, May 2010 edition (which we were given an advanced copy to review). Because he’s rich and Russian and we here on this side of the globe know a little about him, there have been some concerns. And some demonizing. Which was undeserved.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far: He’s tall (6’8″), thinks he’s the first owner who can dunk (Michael Jordan may have beat him to it, although my money was always on Jerry Buss), he’s rich because he’s smart and lucky, and he makes deliberate decisions. That last thing — the deliberate decisions part — should make Nets fans very happy.

Oh, there’s the titillating stuff. He owns a $45 million yacht he barely ever is on because he gets seasick easily. He admits to paying bribes in the 1990s (because that was how you had to do business in that Wild West environment). There’s the fact he doesn’t own a cell phone and says he has only been on the Internet three times. When it comes time to break things down he goes the old-school pencil and paper way. But that’s not the heart of the introductions.

The Bloomberg Markets article breaks down how Prokhorov got to be worth the estimated $22.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) he is now. It starts back when he was in school, when Russia was just opening up to the West and there was a craving for all things American. He started a company making stone wash jeans (back when those were cool be seen in — which by the way Wisconsin ended more than a decade ago) and pretty soon he was raking it in and had 300 employees. And by raking it in, we mean he was getting a 14-to-1 return on every ruble invested.

He then got into banking and buying mines. Which was where the luck came in — he was one of the richest men in Russia when he was accused of consorting with and maybe even helping organize prostitutes. Prokhorov denies all this, although the Bloomberg article makes he clear he hangs with the kind of women that will earn him street cred among NBA players. Back to our story: Prokhorov’s mining partners forced him out after this incident, and Prokhorov cashed out. Then the Russian economy and markets tanked. While everyone he used to work with saw their net worth plummet, he was sitting pretty.

Then most recently, he started using that cash to snap up undervalued and distressed assets.

Enter your New Jersey Nets.

Prokhorov is convinced he and the Nets can win. And when he’s been convinced of something he has made it happen. Which should make Nets fans happy — this may ultimately be a vanity purchase, but he is taking is seriously.

And that should be welcomed in the NBA, not demonized.

Kobe Bryant texts Draymond Green, says making history is not easy

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Golden State Warriors made history — they won 73 games, more than any team in NBA history.

But they are on the verge of being remembered like the 2007 Patriots.

The Warriors are down 3-1 to the Thunder for a variety of reasons — the Thunder defense has been exceptional, Russell Westbrook is a beast, for whatever reason Stephen Curry is not playing like MVP Stephen Curry — but there is another key one:

Draymond Green has played like crap the last couple games.

Kobe Bryant, who relates to Green’s drive and intensity, texted him a message according to Sportando:

That reflects Kobe’s world view.

It may be very different from the Warriors’ reality — even if Curry and Green were back to playing at their peak, it very well might be a coin toss with this Thunder team playing at their peak. The struggles of those two — Green has turned the ball over, missed shots, and missed defensive rotations for two games — have a lot to do with the quality of play of that Thunder defense.

But if the Warriors can come back and win the series (and the title), it will add to their legend.

Report: Grizzlies offer David Fizdale head coaching job

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This is a quality hire, a respected long-time NBA assistant who has deserved a shot in the big chair.

But is he an upgrade over Dave Joerger?

Apparently the Grizzlies are betting that Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale is the man they need. From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Casual fans may not know his name, but this could be a good hire for Memphis. Fizdale is an assistant coach with a quality franchise who has paid his dues and deserves a chance. For example, in Miami Fizdale had won the trust and respect of a team full of players that had won rings. He was a guy they leaned on. As an example, Fizdale worked hard with LeBron James on developing a post game; he was the guy LeBron trusted.

But how will he deal with an aging roster that lacks shooting? The Memphis job is a good one, but it has its challenges.

Joakim Noah’s agent denies center is looking to leave Bulls

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah runs down the court with an apparent injury to his left shoulder during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Chicago. The Nets won 105-102. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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It’s not hard to imagine why Joakim Noah might want to bolt the Chicago Bulls this summer, it’s not like he felt treated like a cornerstone of the franchise. So when a report leaked that Noah told teammates he’s out it wasn’t a shock.

Of course, Noah’s agent has denied such a report. From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Welcome to NBA free agency, where what players are thinking and what their agents will say publicly to keep options are very different things. Then the money hits the table in free agency and everything said before goes off the table.

It will be interesting to see what the market will be for Noah in a summer where contracts are inflated by the flood of cash in the system (from the new TV deal). Noah has battled injuries and is on the downside of his career, he’s 31, but he can still quarterback a defense and impact a locker room. What is that worth now?

More importantly, is what he brings, and his history, worth more to the Bulls than other teams?

Kermit Washington accused of stealing from his charity

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Prosecutors have filed charges against former NBA forward Kermit Washington, accusing him of embezzling about a half-million dollars in charitable donations meant to help the needy in Africa and spending it on jewelry, vacations and other things.

Washington, who was best known for his bone-shattering punch to the face of Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich during a game in 1977, was charged in an indictment filed in Kansas City on Monday. The indictment was unsealed Wednesday after Washington’s arrest Tuesday in Los Angeles, said Tammy Dickinson, U.S. attorney for the western district of Missouri.

Online court records don’t list a lawyer for Washington, who authorities said has been released on bond.

Washington is charged with interfering with internal revenue laws, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obstruction of justice and aggravated identity theft. The charges largely stem from transactions that occurred from about 2004 through 2013, according to the indictment.

“The federal indictment alleges this former NBA player used his celebrity status to exploit the good intentions of those who donated to a charity he founded, called Project Contact Africa,” Dickinson said.

She declined to say how much of the money actually went to the charity, but she characterized it as a “very small fraction.”

The investigation, which is ongoing, stemmed from an earlier Kansas City-based federal investigation into pirated software that has involved charges against several other people. Dickinson said investigators “followed the money” in that investigation and uncovered Washington’s fraud.

Defendants in the software case are accused of paying Washington to allow them to sell items through Project Contact Africa’s website, saving them money in fees that would have been owed to PayPal and eBay if the items were not sold through a charity, Dickinson said.

Washington, 64, worked as a regional representative for the National Basketball Players Association from 2005 until 2015, and authorities have accused him of using that position to refer professional athletes to Ron Mix, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and San Diego lawyer who specialized in worker’s compensation cases, in exchange for about $155,000 in donations to Washington’s charity.

Mix, who was accused of claiming that amount as a charitable donation, pleaded guilty Monday in Kansas City to a felony tax-fraud charge.

Washington played in the NBA in the 1970s and 1980s for several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. He is best remembered for his infamous punch that fractured Tomjanovich’s face and left him unconscious during a 1977 game between Washington’s Lakers and the Rockets.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tammy Dickinson’s name in one reference. It had been misspelled Dickenson.

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