Ric Bucher thinks he sees evidence that Mikhail Prokhorov is interested in selling the team, rather than selling a piece of it: The Nets reported willingness to trade Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and/or Brook Lopez.
"Teams around the league say they haven't received any trade calls and they see this as an indication that Prokhorov is back to selling the team, particularly since he's trying to move three of the biggest contracts on their roster," he says in a Bucher Buzz segment. He explains, "This for the uninitiated is what teams do. It's what the Memphis Grizzlies did, what the Detroit Pistons did. Any team looking to sell. One, there's not a lot of overhead. Two, they start with a blank slate. They get to create a team the way they see fit."
Prokhorov, of course, has said he intends to own the team for the foreseeable future. A merger of the Nets interests and those of Guggenheim Sports fell through in November and is unlikely to be resuscitated.
Bucher does not suggest he has spoken to anyone in the Nets ownership or organization, just "teams around the league," not further described. He also assumes that any deals for the Big Three would return less salary which team insiders say is not necessarily the case. After all, the Nets would have to take on salaries near the level that Williams, Johnson and Lopez make now, which is more than $58 million this season -- and $140 million total.
The other reason Bucher cites is more complicated. About a year ago, the NBA reached a $500 million deal with the former owners of the Spirits of St. Louis, an ABA franchise to finally end their lucrative TV deal with the NBA. In 1976, the owners agreed to break up their team in return for 1/7th of the TV revenue that the four ABA teams entering the NBA would receive ... in perpetuity. The NBA and the four former ABA teams --the Nets, Spurs, Pacers and Nuggets-- agreed to share the costs of the deal, which for the first time guarantees full equity for all 30 teams in the national TV deal.
Bucher claims Prokhorov was reluctant to contribute his share, which according to some sources was as high as eight figures.
"Prokhorov was one of the few owners who didn't want to settle up now to pay the big price tag to get out of that deal," he contends. "But thought let's continue to pay them their little piece and presumably the next owner of the Nets would have to be on the hook for helping to pay off the lump sum that made the Spirits go away."
Whether Prokhorov was reluctant or not --and a league source told NetsDaily at the time that the deal was a good one for the Nets-- Brooklyn ultimately agreed and now, with the new TV deal in hand, they and the other three teams will wind up with full shares, not 6/7ths.
Is it possible Prokhorov will sell? Certainly. There's nothing to stop him, but it would fly in the face of everything he's said over the past year.
- Bucher Buzz: Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov Cleaning House to Attract Bidders - Ric Bucher - Bleacher Report
NBA Insider: Players, Teams Poised to Move as NBA's Trade Season Kicks Off - Howard Beck - Bleacher Report