Prokhorov, possibly looking for John Helmer

Prokhorov, possibly looking for John Helmer

Geez, maybe CBS should just go ahead and hire Mikhail Prokhorov to appear regularly; after all, the CSKA Moscow/prospective New Jersey Nets owner’s appearance on “60 Minutes” has made the American television program an international topic of conversation to an extent it hasn’t enjoyed in a decade, triggering hoopla, excitement and the inevitable blogging on both sides of the ocean.

The big man in the ESPN True Hoop network, Henry Abbott, was moved enough to proclaim that “The next decade, for Nets fans, is going to be so different from the last one.” (Actually, for Nets fans’ sakes, let’s hope the 10s aren’t too different: After all, New Jersey did make six consecutive playoff appearances, five times getting at least as far as the semifinals, and twice playing in the NBA Finals with a bona fide Hall of Famer.)

Notes Abbott:

The Prokhorov portrayed in that “60 Minutes” story is someone plenty of NBA players would love to get to know better. [...] Prokhorov’s most famous misstep could even serve him. Besides buying the Nets, the thing he may be best known for is getting arrested at the French ski resort of Courchevel in early 2007. He was released without charges, but the police who nabbed him told him they did so with the belief the eight attractive young women traveling with his party were prostitutes.

Prokhorov says that “of course” the women were not prostitutes. At the time, the French authorities who locked him up told the press the women may have been paid only with gifts. Somewhere in there, the line between girlfriend and call girl gets a little blurry. But in recent interviews, Prokhorov also does nothing whatsoever to distance himself from the idea of hanging around with tons of young women.

BallinEurope isn’t exactly sure why the Irish Times is running a piece on Prokhorov – excepting, of course, for getting caught up in the overwhelming buzz – but who cares when an excellent piece well-spiced with witty Irish-flavored zingers is the result?

Describes writer George Kimball:

The scenario posed by a dodgy Russian zillionaire acquiring a moribund franchise and attempting to buy his way to a championship is, of course, a more familiar tale across the ocean than in the US. And while Prokhorov’s name has been familiar to basketball fans in both Brooklyn and New Jersey since September (when he provisionally acquired an 80 per cent stake in the Nets contingent on his relocating the franchise from the latter to the former), it is safe to say until the 60 Minutes episode aired, most Americans probably thought Prokhorov was the guy who wrote “Peter and the Wolf.”

Kimball also saliently points out that “In announcing his investment, Prokhorov had boasted he would be ‘the first NBA owner who can dunk,’ but a few days before the worst-record mark slipped from the Nets’ grasp, he was frustrated in that quest, too, when the league’s Board of Governors approved the application of a group headed by Michael Jordan – who reputedly can also dunk – to purchase the Carolina Bobcats.”

Perhaps funniest of all in Kimball’s piece is his quoting of Nicolas Sarkozy, who responded on record to the Courchevel incident with “Now there is a man who wants to please.”

In terms of actual, you know, basketball, Yahoo Sports last night reported on Prokhorov’s definitive and not-so-definitive plans regarding the Nets front office and coaching staff. Sayeth the Yahoo: “Sources close to Prokhorov’s ownership group say they plan to soon finalize a two-year contract extension for the well-respected [Nets president Rod] Thorn.”

Since Thorn is apparently staying on, continues Yahoo, “sources say the chances of landing [Prokhorov’s] top choice, Jeff Van Gundy, are improved” and that “Van Gundy hadn’t planned to return to coaching next season, but the Nets believe he’ll be willing to listen to a pitch. They want to talk to Villanova’s Jay Wright, too, but he’s turned down big offers from the 76ers and Kentucky in the past two years…”

From the Don’t Make Him Angry, You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry Department, journalist/author/former Carter Administration member John Helmer positively goes off on writer Stephanie Baker of Bloomberg News Agency, whose Prokhorov profile entitled “From Russia With Cash” was apparently all too sycophantic for Helmer.

Helmer lists 10 grievances regarding Baker’s piece, the great majority of which center on Prokhorov’s probably-not-completely-aboveboard business dealings in Russia (imagine that). On the crucial Nets purchase and potential Brooklyn relocation, Helmer queries thusly:

…you refer to “Prokhorov’s love of sports [as] part of the reason he wants to buy the Nets. He says he originally went after the New York Knicks because of their Manhattan base.” You also claim that the Brooklyn arena part of the transaction has been “held up for six years because of legal battles with local residents opposed to the new development.” Is it your view that Mr Prokhorov has succeeded in acquiring both the team franchise and the real estate project? Are you unaware of the reports that Mr Prokhorov cannot close his deal for the team and for his share in the arena with Mr Ratner until Mr Ratner has possession of the properties standing in the way of the arena and he does not have those (sic) yet. Are you aware that the borrowings Mr Prokhorov has said he will undertake for the transaction are also contingent on this? Are these reports incorrect, and that is why you did not report them? What evidence do you have that Mr Prokhorov and Mr Ratner can close their deal soon?

(BiE supposes that Mr. Helmer didn’t see the bit from the “60 Minutes” segment regarding Prokhorov’s proclivity for AK-47s.)

Finally, while seemingly everyone with the slightest interest in basketball and/or international megabusiness was tuned into “60 Minutes” on Sunday, at least one New Jerseyite was not: Brook Lopez. As it turns out, the center was watching “The Simpsons” instead. Even more awesomely for the geeks out there, Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk reports that Lopez was tuned into the specific episode “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” featuring Sacha Baron Cohen.

Said Lopez: “I’m a loyal fan. I love those middle seasons and I am still going to watch it. I don’t catch it too much on Sundays. It was just a coincidence. I was sitting in my living room and I looked at my clock and it was 7:15 and I decided I was going to watch the Simpsons tonight.” (It should be pointed out that the “Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” episode of The Simpsons is actually from season 21, hardly one from one of “those middle seasons.”)

Concluded Helin: “I don’t see a problem with this; Homer is certainly more popular than Prokhorov in New Jersey.”

Perhaps not for long, Mr. Helin, perhaps not for long…


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