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.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.