There's been a lot of copy expended on Mikhail Prokhorov's remark that even if he loses Deron Williams to the Mavs, he could still beat Mark Cuban in a kick-boxing takedown.
It was the most quoted and most quotable line so far in his nearly weeklong stay in New York, which has featured a tour of Barclays Center, talks in his box with fans and injured players (Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace) and a still secret meeting with Williams. It will culminate, as early as Thursday, in the NBA Board of Governors' vote finally approving the Nets move to Brooklyn.
But lost in all this is what appears to be the main purpose of his trip to the U.S., to let everyone know that he remains "very committed" to the Nets' success. He may have missed most of a last, lost season in New Jersey running for president of Russia, but he wants everyone to know he hasn't lost interest, noting he watches "80 percent of the games" and reviews stats from all of them.
Take for example, his comments at the Barclays Center press conference. Three times, he made sure to tag his answers with the coda, "I'm very committed." It seemed no accident.
"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."
"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."
"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."
In meeting with season ticket-holders and NetsDaily in his box, he made it clear that his commitment is long-term as well as deep. His most memorable comment, "I dream of a dynasty", may have seemed a bit out of place, particularly on a night when the team was eliminated from the playoffs for the fifth straight year, but it also implied that intends to be around for a while. Dynasties, by their very nature, are years in the making.
A season ticket holder who's made his own commitment to Brooklyn asked about his role in the team's future. He replied, without the trace of a smile, that while he's never going to be Mark Cuban, that doesn't mean he's not going to pump money and resources into the franchise.
"First of all, I like Mark Cuban very much. He's a very funny guy, and I like him a lot, but I'm not Mark Cuban. I'm Michael Prokhorov and I don't want to be the owner, GM, doctor, security guy. No. So my job is to make everything the team needs. So, it's more important than what is just inside of the team. It's behind the scenes. I don't like a lot of publicity. That's why the best we can do is create the best team in the league and to beat everybody, to make a dynasty.
"And the New Jersey market is not like the New York City market. We are on the front page as soon as we are a good team. The best for us is to find a young, ambitious player and make him inside the team, a superstar. And of course, I will do my best in order to find, outside of the team, the best pieces we need. So we need to be just flexible. Our goal is still the same, a championship team."
(That last comment also signaled what should have been evident for a long time. New Jersey is in the rear view mirror, as Andy Vasquez writes today.)
Bottom line, here's what many (sports) writers are missing when they focus on kickboxing comment: he had a choice about what theme he wanted to set on this trip to New York. At least publicly, it's been all about the Nets. He easily could have used his time here to reiterate his presidential campaign themes, his calls for reform in Russia. If he had wanted to speak to the Council of Foreign Relations or one of the area's many schools of diplomacy, he would have been welcomed. Perhaps, he didn't because it would have been a bit untoward for him to criticize the Kremlin while in New York. Perhaps he wants to take a break from it all. In any event, he decided not to. Instead, Prokhorov chose to focus on his basketball team, letting everyone, from players to fans, know that he's "very committed" to his team and its future.