Mikhail Prokhorov, the man who made his billions in the metal industry, and who bought the New Jersey Nets in 2010 and then said they would be title contenders in three years, fired his head coach, Lionel Hollins. Given Prokhorov’s resume, this is the least surprising of the moves he has greenlighted in order to bring the Nets a title. He is the man who traded for that grotesque contract of Joe Johnson. He is the man who signed Deron Williams to a max deal, a colossal failure as Williams couldn’t perform under the pressure that kind of money demanded; it seemed to choke every ounce of game out of him. Prokhorov is the man who paid Brook Lopez, who hasn’t played a full NBA season in the last four years, $21 million. He gleefully gave up draft picks for beyond their prime players Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece and now the Nets don’t have a first round pick until 2018, meaning all this misery is going to snag them no young talent, no Ben Simmons, no Brandon Ingram, no Kris Dunn.
It’s been said the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. With Prokhorov that is sadly true.
He fired Lionel Hollins because Hollins major crime was having an aged Johnson who is shooting 36%. The Nets point guard, Jarrett Jack, was not a point guard at all but one they tried to make into a point guard after they fired Williams. Jarrett Jack tore his ACL. The Nets first round pick, Rondae Hollis-Jeffersion, is a promising rookie defensive player but he is out for awhile. And playing Andrea Bargnani, a failure of a number one pick, is actually funny.
The Nets are a bunch of spare parts that are mediocre at best but Prokhorov sees…what does he see in this bunch? They are the second worst scoring team because they have no scorers. They are the worst 3-point shooting team because they don’t have skilled distance shotmakers. Without a pure point, they routinely turn the ball over which translates into easy points for the other team. They play slow in a fast league and are at the bottom of the metrics in fast break points. Sounds like a lottery team to me.
Prokhorov slashed payroll, went on the cheap, brought in average players and surprise, surprise he is getting exactly what he paid for. Actions do have consequences.
The Nets have the second worst record in the East. Of the five god-awful teams in the NBA, the Nets are the only ones without a bright light. The 76ers have talent in Jahlil Okafor. The Lakers have four young players: Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. The Pelicans have Anthony Davis. The Timberowlves have Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. And the Nets have….Bojan Bogdanovic?
Let’s look at it another way. Prokhorov, the gambler, gambled. He lost. He went for the win right now and it blew up in his face. Now he has to start over. In the NBA you start over by developing young players you draft. It’s why you don’t give up draft picks that may turn into cornerstones of your franchise. You must have patience.
Prokhorov isn’t a student of NBA history. Otherwise he would be aware that in the past 35 years of NBA basketball only 10 teams have won titles: Lakers (10), Bulls (6), Spurs (5), Celtics(4), Pistons(3), Heat(3), Rockets (2), 76ers (1), Mavericks(1), Warriors(1). Each one of those teams had a Hall of Fame talent younger than 30. It is the requirement for NBA success. Great young players deliver titles. Good young players deliver playoff runs. Average old players deliver the lottery.
Nothing Prokhorov has done since owning the Nets has worked. The Nets payroll in his first year was $58 million. They won 24 games. The next year the payroll was $60 million, and they were worse, they won 22 games. In 2012-13 with a $84 million dollar payroll he fired his coach, Avery Johnson. They were a 49 win team and lost in 7 games in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Bulls. The 2013-14 season, the payroll jumped to $102 million because of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. They won 44 games and lost in the semi-finals to the Miami Heat in 5 games. Jason Kidd was their coach. In the off-season, Jason Kidd tried a power play that failed badly and he was replaced by Lionel Hollins. The Net cut costs in Hollins first year by getting rid of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The payroll was $88 million. They won 38 games but in the anemic Eastern Conference they made the playoffs and lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
It doesn’t take a Harvard economist to understand the trend. Every year for the past four years the Nets have gotten worse. It has been a colossal failure on every level. Prokhorov hasn’t developed one young talent. His proven talent was either past their prime or mentally incapable of being a star. So here he is with a team in shambles, no coach, no draft picks, having to rebuild on the free agent market which never works. Where is the vision? What is the 5-year plan?
Everyone acknowledges the 76ers are the worst team in the NBA and have been since they instituted “The Process.” And yet- this is so ironic- last month the 76ers awarded their coach Brett Brown by giving him a contract extension. Brett Brown has won 41 games in three years. In three years, the Nets have won 92 games and are on their third different head coach. The 76ers have a failed system but stability. The Nets have a failed system but instability.
photo via llananba