Prokhorov, at Barclays Center, Says Team Like Arena Under Construction; Challenges Cuban To Kick-Boxing

@MikeAScotto

In his first meeting with American sports writers since he pulled the plug on Carmelo Anthony trade talks, Mikhail Prokhorov stuck with his promise of a championship, but admitted, "The Nets, like the arena, are still under construction." He added he's still "very committed" to bringing a title to Brooklyn by 2015.

Prokhorov said that he met with Deron Williams Monday and they had a good conversation "I think we're on the same page," he offered. Prokhorov was silent on specifics, saying, "Please wait til the summer, I will share with you all the details. For now, it is top secret," and claiming league rules prevent him from speaking about contract talks. "He wants to win, and I want to win maybe even more.," he said of Williams.

If a battle erupts with Mark Cuban over Williams, "Let the best man win" but "if he wins, I will crush him in kickboxing throw down."

"We need to be really patient," Prokhorov advised. "It's easy to make a playoff team, but difficult to make a championship team ... I will do my best ... we hope our fans will share in our vision." As for Billy King and Avery Johnson, Prokhorov said both are doing a "great job." Finally, Prokhorov said the Nets new logo would be unveiled after the Board of Governors meeting later this week.

Accompanied by Bruce Ratner, Brett Yormark and King, Prokhorov toured Barclays Center, including his supersuite at halfcourt and the Nets locker room before taking questions from beat writers. A crew from YES is accompanying Prokhorov throughout the day, including the Nets vs. 76ers this evening.

Later, Prokhorov visited the Nets new offices in Brooklyn. It's the Nets' owner's first visit to the arena since October and only his second since construction began. Under terms of his agreement with Ratner, Prokhorov owns 45% of Barclays Center and holds a 20% option on Atlantic Yards, the $4 billion complex of which Barclays Center is the first phase. Prokhorov also owns 80% of the Nets.

Transcript, courtesy of The New York Post, follows after the break.

Bruce Ratner opening statement

Thank you all for being here. You’re right now standing in the Grand Atrium. You’ll see how large and beautiful it is. And then you come and get this magnificent view of the bowl. It’s tight, there will be a lot of noise there, a lot of action. It’s gonna be the most incredible arena in America, and maybe the world. But I’m not only here to tell you about the arena, I’m here to tell you about a partnership.

It takes teamwork to do something like this. From the very beginning it’s teamwork, and Iust want to say that probably, along this big journey, one of the best things I ever did, if not the best thing, was partner up with Mikhail Prokhorov. It’s not only because of the economics, that, of course, is good. But it’s because Mikhail Prokhorov, and his group, have been wonderful partners. We’ve worked together with real teamwork, and everything that I’ve ever done in life that’s been successful is about good teamwork and partnership. And so, with that, I’d like to introduce to you to, probably, the best partner I’ve had in my life, in terms of teamwork, working together, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Mikhail Prokhorov opening statement

Thank you, to all of you, for coming. When I bought a share of the Barclays Center, I do remember, together with my partner, we were visiting the job here, that I became a partnership in a hole. So, but now, I am quite happy with our home here. With my partner, Bruce Ratner, and I, we held onto that vision. We saw the future. And we saw that it will really be a wonderful venue for all of the Brooklynites. We saw that it would be joy and excitement for all of the community.

The Nets, like the arena, is still under construction. It’s in the building stage. And I’ll keep my prediction of the championship. So I’ll do my best, together with my fans and my partners, to make the Brooklyn Nets the champions of the NBA, and I’m very committed to this.

What do you think of the Barclays Center at this point?

It’s not my first visit to the arena, but now it looks really good. I think, just welcome the 21st century. I’m sure it will be the best arena in the world, and I’m proud to have a partner like Bruce Ratner, and we can do together a great miracle. Now we have practically a state-of-the-art arena, and we need to have a genius team. This combination will give a lot of emotion, a lot of joy, a lot of excitement to the great borough of Brooklyn.

What will it take to make the Nets a championship contender?

First of all, I want to tell that we need to be really very patient. It’s easy to have a good team, a playoff team, and it’s very difficult to make a championship team. So we need to be very patient, and we need to go slow, step-by-step, to find the best pieces for the team. Not only just very good players, but we need to have the players which can be one, very strong, similar team. We are really on the right way. If you look, for example, and we can analyze this season, we have very good young pieces like MarShon Brooks, for example, like Gerald Green. We’re glad to have Gerald Wallace with us, and of course, I think, we’re slowly coming to, more or less, a very good situation. If not for the crazy injuries this year, I’m sure we would have been in the playoffs. But we’re patient, and I hope our fans will share our approach to the championship. For us, it’s very important that they trust in us. I will do my best, and I’m very committed.

How will you keep Deron Williams?

As you know, NBA rules prohibit me to comment on the potential interest. So, please wait for the summer, and I’ll tell you all of the details. For the time being, it’s top, top secret for us.

There’s been talk of playing hockey here. Are you courting the Islanders to move over here?

Our arena, we reached agreement with the professional hockey league. Now we can play ice hockey here. But, for the time being, we don’t have a practical plan with any other teams for the time being. But we’ll see in the future.

How do your political aspirations affect owning the Nets going forward?

I think there’s no mingling of my ownership or my potential political career. For me, the last presidential election in Russia was a starting point for my potential career. But, unlike the presidential run, now I have time [and] no pressure to make an immediate [next] step. So I’m in a stage of thinking and working out my political strategy. The world is changing, Russia is changing and facing a very interesting time. There is a new generation of Russians, and this election, to me, was a great testimony. There is 20 percent of the Russian population that are looking for changes, severe changes in the economy and the world, to be a part of the global world. It’s a nice start, but [later] I can comment in a more practical way.

What is your reaction to Dwight Howard electing not to be traded to the Nets and to stay in Brooklyn for another season?

I think every owner wants to have a great player. And, of course, during our strategy, we tried to use any opportunity. But as far as all of these rumors are concerned, I think that people from the office, they planned to visit Miami and to speak with the agent of Nene at the time. That’s why, maybe, there was a lot of rumors from Dwight Howard people, because they have the same agent. That’s why, as soon as we have a legal opportunity for trades, we will do our best to find the best pieces for our team.

Is this a formal goodbye to New Jersey? What do you do for the fans there?

I hope that the majority of the Nets fans from New Jersey will join us here, and we’ll do our best to invite all of the people who have supported our team for many, many years to be our fans here. Our new name will be Brooklyn Nets, that’s why I hope we can unite New Jersey fans, Manhattan [fans], and, of course, Brooklynites. We’ll do our best in order to have all of these great communities together in this great arena.

You spoke about the injuries affecting the team’s performance. Will you be doing performance reviews, and what do you think of the jobs that Billy King and Avery Johnson have done this season?

I think Billy and Avery are doing a great job. We have a common view, not only on the day-to-day routine but on our strategic goal. To have a championship team, you need to have a global view, a strategic view and a common knowledge of how to reach those goals. From my point of view, we have a great team spirit, we need a little bit of luck, because the team is very professional, and I hope next season we’ll be much better than the previous two.

How did you choose the team’s name?

I think it was a very easy task. It’s not a big deal. This name appeared from the fans from Brooklyn, and my team was very open. It was a very short discussion. We spoke with some professionals, and it was practically unanimous that this was the right name for our team.

You said 20 percent of the people want to do things differently. But they stayed overwhelmingly with the current system. Did you learn anything from that?

So, for me, it was really great schooling. I met a lot of people. Now I know much better for different aspects of the Russian life. But these 20 percent of Russians are so-called “thinking people.” These are the future Russian elite. And these 20 percent of the Russian population, they really deserve the changes. In the near future, the majority of Russians will fight for the changes. That’s why, in this case, I really am very optimistic.

How do you view the team’s two years in Newark, and could the city host a future NBA team?

I want to thank, first of all, all of Newark’s citizens and the owners of the arena. They really are doing their best to make our team feel like home. But when we made our partnership, there were guidelines to construct this beautiful arena and move to Brooklyn. It was our strategic ideology. That’s why of course, I know some people are very skeptical, because if you want an asset to stay. But life is life. We’ll do our best to unite all of these people, and to join us here in Brooklyn. I think it will help not only the Brooklyn community, but all of New York and New Jersey.

You can actually comment on Deron Williams, since he’s on your team. How will you keep him on the team?

We met yesterday. We had, I think, a very good discussion. He really wants to win and I want to maybe win even more. I don’t really want to go into details, but I think, at this stage, we’re on the same page.

How confident are you can keep him?

I think he wants to win, and he wants to be a part of a great franchise. So we have the same view on this. I think it’s better to ask him about our conversation. I mean, what I’ve already mentioned.

Now that the election is over, do you plan on being here more often, and being more involved with coming back more often?

I like to pay attention to my team. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Moscow or here in New York, because I watch usually 80 percent of the games, I read the stats for all of the games, and I have long conversations with my people with the team. I think what is more important is not what you see. What’s more important is what’s behind-the-scenes, the day-to-day routine and our strategic plans. I’m very committed and I’m very involved in the strategy process. My job is to know that the team has all the best [tools] it can. That’s the most important thing. Of course, now I can more often be here to visit them and see games live.

I wasn’t saying you aren’t involved. I was simply asking if you planned to come to more games and be here more?

I hope so.

Bruce Ratner, can we ask you about the timeline for finishing the arena?

We’re opening on September 28, that’s the magic date. We’re going to open, as you all know, with a Jay-Z concert. We’ll probably be pretty substantially completed about a month earlier, and work out bugs for about a month. We’re on time and on schedule, and it should be done with no problem.

(Back to Prokhorov)

About Williams, are you worried about your good friend Mark Cuban?

Let the best man win. If he wins, I’ll crush him in a kickboxing throwdown.

In your visits, what sense have you gotten of the area’s excitement and interest in the team coming here?

So I think I read an article in the Daily News that said every nine out of 10 Brooklynites are quite happy for the arena and team coming. I feel Brooklyn deserves a professional team. I know there will be some kind of skeptical criticism … but it’s not only basketball. It’s a great cultural place, and a chance to make this the heart of Brooklyn. I think even those who are skeptical now will join us. We’ll do our best because, for us, this period of community is very important.

Planning to buy an apartment here, and where would you look?

It’s a great question for me, because for the time being, rich Russians are driving up the prices, so it’s not the best time to buy.

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