Back in December, as the Nets foundered, Sergey Kushchenko arrived in New York for a meeting of the Nets board of directors. The 52-year-old director of Russia's Biathlon Union --and Mikhail Prokhorov's long-time sports adviser-- is a member of the Nets board, one of seven.
But Kushchenko, who ran CSKA Moscow for Prokhorov, was also there to ask questions on behalf of the boss, who was not happy that his investment had turned south. Once his questions were answered and his meetings were finished, he headed back to Moscow, where he continued preparing Russia's biathlon team for the Sochi Olympics. Biathlon is a big sport in Russia and if the team doesn't win two or three golds, it will reflect badly on him and the president of union, Prokhorov.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see Kushchenko taking some more time out Tuesday to visit the Nets practice at Imperial College in London. Tim Bontemps and Stefan Bondy talked to him and wrote that the former Euroleague Executive of the Year (2006) is likely to take on a larger role in Brooklyn, although he says his interest in the Nets is not new.
"From the very beginning I have been involved," said Kushchenko, who Prokhorov appointed a director three years ago as a 50th birthday present. "I discuss every move, talk a lot about everything. I give advice … not the final [decision], but I have conversations."
The two beat reporters think Kushchenko is too modest, They contend his arrival in London so close to the Olympics signals that his influence is rising while Dmitry Razumov, No. 2 at ONEXIM and Billy King's contact with ownership, has "receded in the background," as Bontemps writes, or "has been noticeably missing from team events this season," according to Bondy. Razumov represented Prokhorov at the Jason Kidd jersey retirement ceremony in October.
Not so fast, said one team insider. Razumov is still a big player in the team's hierarchy and deserves a lot of the credit for the team's big moves the last two years. It's now part of the Nets' lore that Razumov stayed awake for 24 hours straight in July 2012 to ensure that Deron Williams re-signed with the team. And it was Razumov who convinced Prokhorov to spend as much as he has on the team, say various league sources.
Whatever. Kushchenko told Bontemps and Bondy that he believes the Nets have turned the corner.
"The expectations were high, and the pressure was high during the year, but right now we can see the parts are clicking and finally we are maybe on the right track right now," Kushchenko said. "Because there was so much changes, and it always takes time, always takes time to make things work.
What about an increased role after the Olympics? "Let’s wait for Sochi first," he said.
- Ally of Nets owner takes a bigger role - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Mikhail Prokhorov’s right-hand man sees rosy outlook for Nets - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News