The Nets offered an "Evening of Russian Cuture" Tuesday during the Magic game. Appropriately, it arrived with a wintry blast of Siberian weather.
The evening featured the US national anthem sung by Mikhail Svetlov of the Metropolitan Opera, a selection of Russian violin pieces by Alex Markov, player introductions in Russian as well as a giveaway of, yes, "tchotchkes" (Hey, it's both Russian and New York slang) like bi-lingual T-shirts and wristbands.
Fans were encouraged to chant “Zasheeta!” instead of "Defense!" and player introductions were in Russian.
The evening was co-sponsored by Stoli, the Russian vodka maker which has a big presence around Barclays Center, and Danu Radio, a Brooklyn-based radio station that calls itself "the only Russian-speaking FM radio station in the United States." A number of the Nets' Russian ownership group, but not Mikhail Prokhorov, were on hand. Andrei Kirilenko's wife, Masha, a Russian designer and singer, sat with Irina Pavlova of the Nets ownership group.
The evening is just the latest step in the Nets' upgrade of their Russian presence in New York, where more than 200,000 Russians and Russian-Americans live, Moscow and even the Russian hinterlands.
In his discussion with writers last weekend in London, Prokhorov was asked if he was seeing Nets gear across the nine time zones of his homeland.
"Now it's much more popular in Russia," said the Nets owner. "partially because we have Andrei Kirilenko. He's the best Russian athlete and he's very famous. So now, we have more and more supporters and it's really fun. I saw a lot of Brooklyn t-shirts in the regions of Russia. So I'm happy with this."
At the center of the Nets Russian profile is their little known but growing Russian language website. commonly called "NetsRussia." It translates much of the English language site's offerings along with some original Russian content as well.
For example, on Tuesday, the Nets posted a Russian language interview of Kirilenko by Alyonka Larionov. The two spoke about the Russian influence in New York and how he's adjusting to it all. The interview apparently took place in a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach. NetsRussia is by no means a finished product, says a league source, that the Nets have more ambitious plans for it.