Mikhail Prokhorov is in a bit of a panic, and it’s not because of next year’s presidential election in his native country. The Nets’ billionaire owner, who earlier this week announced his candidacy for next year’s Russian presidential election, is shaking in his boots because his American investment is in serious trouble.
Thursday’s news that the Orlando Magic have taken super star center Dwight Howard off the trading block sent massive shock waves up and down the Nets organization, which is moving its operation to Brooklyn beginning next season. Brooklyn wants basketball, and the fans there are going to get it. But as we all know, fans want more than just a team – they want a winning team. A player of Howard’s stature almost guarantees a winner.
That’s why the Nets, particularly General Manager Billy King, pursued a deal with the Magic for Howard with so much intensity that it bordered violating league rules (that’s still to be determined). The brain trust in the Nets’ front office knows that the team will financially succeed in the first year or two at the Barclays Center. But sustained success is incumbent upon a fielding a winning team on the court. If the team doesn’t win in the long run, the seats at that new Brooklyn arena will be empty.
Had the Nets traded for Howard, they would put an unmatched talent in the front court and pair him with all-world point guard Deron Williams. Williams, who opted not to sign a contract extension with the Nets, likely would have signed an extension with Howard on the roster, but now that’s looking less likely.
Of course, the Magic removing Howard from the trading block doesn’t mean that they won’t deal him in the future. It just means the offers that they did receive from New Jersey and the other teams that expressed interest were not satisfactory. King better find more/different combinations to go along with Brook Lopez and draft picks or pull other teams into the deal because the Nets cannot afford to lose out on Howard.
The Nets can’t turn back on this either. Their fallback, Denver center Nene, already re-signed with the Nuggets, and the other big time big man available in this free agent market, Tyson Chandler, inked a deal with the Knicks. If they can’t figure out a trade for Howard, the Nets will have to hope that no team trades for him and wait for the 2012 offseason, when Howard officially becomes a free agent. Then, the Nets will have to hope that they have enough money and appeal to both Howard and Williams.
It’s do or die, all or nothing for the Nets. They’ll either move to Brooklyn with Howard and Williams in tote as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. Or they’ll head out there with no stars, no draw and little to no hope.
This could end up being a dream union or another Nets nightmare.