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.

Frank Vogel says Paul George is best two-way player in game

Paul George, John Wall
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The moniker of the “best two-way player” sounds more like something an agent made up to gain a little leverage contract negotiations. It’s a nebulous concept. It’s an intentional dig at whomever is perceived as a better player, suggesting they don’t play enough defense.

But it’s part of the NBA lexicon now, and Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel thinks he has the best two-way player in the game in the resurgent Paul George. Tuesday night George dropped 40 points on Wizards and Vogel said this after the game, via the Washington Post.

“It’s tough to quantify in words,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, he just does so much. He’s capable of going for 40, carrying the offensive load and being the best defensive player on either team. He’s a special player, and the best two-way player in the game. We’re a different team with him out there.”

Paul George’s return to an elite level of play is one of the best stories of this young NBA season — for nine straight games now he has scored at least 25 points, he has pushed the Pacers to a 9-5 record with a top 10 NBA offense and defense. Tuesday night John Wall talked about how George’s improved jumper has made him a far more dangerous, more difficult to guard player. And he’s still a lock-down defender.

But George is not the best two-way player in the game — that’s Stephen Curry. George does not have the offensive impact that Curry brings to the Warriors, plus Curry has developed into a solid NBA defender. Curry gets steals, plays smart, and is a positive on defense, plus he’s the best offensive player in the league right now.

That doesn’t make the return of Paul George any less fun, any less good for the game. It’s great to see George back. Whatever you want to call him.



Kobe Bryant “not really worried” about his shooting after 1-of-14 night

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Sometimes a picture can tell the story better than words.

That’s why above you can see all of Kobe Bryant‘s shot attempts against the Warriors Tuesday, a night where he went 1-of-14 from the floor (and “facilitator Kobe” had two assists). If you want another picture, here is Kobe’s shot chart for the game.

Kobe shot chart vs. Warriors

On the season, Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall, 19.5 percent from three, and he has a career low true shooting percentage of 41.5 percent. It’s hard to watch. On a team that is supposed to be developing their young stars, Kobe took as many shots as D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle combined. Laker coach Byron Scott is good with Kobe doing whatever he wants.

But Kobe is worried about his shooting performances, right? Not so much. From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

If Kobe can figure out the Lakers’ system this season, he will be in a club of one.

I could go on a longer rant here, but the bottom line is this is just a sad spectacle to watch. And there’s a lot of season left to watch it.

Kobe Bryant: Warriors can make run at record 33-game win streak

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Pat Riley compared the Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to one of the legendary guard tandems the game has ever seen — Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. Two Hall of Famers who led the 1972 Lakers to an NBA title.

That West/Goodrich team also won 33 straight games that season.

The Warriors are off to the fastest start in NBA history at 16-0 after destroying the hapless Lakers on Tuesday night, and the question of “when will they lose?” Kobe Bryant thinks these Warriors could get to that legendary 33 mark, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“Yeah, they could do it – because they’re good,” Bryant said afterward. “It’s a very young league, and they’ve managed to put together a team of extremely intelligent players and extremely versatile players, and great shooters. And so I see no reason why they couldn’t continue to extend (the record).”

The Warriors are not even halfway there and have shown some flashes of one-game vulnerability of late (a rough game against the Nets, for example). They have an upcoming seven-game road trip with a couple back-to-backs where they likely stumble at least once.

Then again, look at their next dozen opponents: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Raptors, Nets, Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Bucks, Jazz. Teams such as the Raptors and Pacers are certainly playing well, but there is no team on that list that makes you step back and say “that’s a loss.” Get through that dozen and the Warriors are at 28-0 and the Lakers’ record is within shot. The Warriors are not going to stop doing what they do — if the wearable science tells them Curry needs a night off, he’ll sit — but if they can get close, for a team trying to establish a legacy of greatness this would be a step in that direction.

The 16-0 mark already is.

Nick Young wears Gilbert Arenas’ old shoes during game (PHOTO)

Nick Young, Devin Harris
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In a disastrous Lakers season, one thing can be counted on (besides Byron Scott saying absurd things about Kobe Bryant): Nick Young will always be able to lighten the mood. He brought some levity to the Lakers’ blowout loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night with a blast from the past: a pair of gold shoes formerly worn by his ex-Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas.

These shoes, like Swaggy, and like Gilbert before the injuries and the guns, are awesome and should be celebrated.