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The First Lady of the Brooklyn Nets

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Brooklyn Nets

In a lengthy --and enormously entertaining-- Grantland profile, reporter Louisa Thomas gets to the essential Irina Pavlova early on.

This is her charm, this is what people usually first mention when they talk about her — her extraordinary, almost genius ability for making people feel the full force of her attention. "Some people have this talent: They can talk to you for 30 seconds and then disappear, but still make you feel really good," says her friend and former Nets colleague Milton Lee. "She has that."

It's what every Nets fan who's ever come in contact with her knows. More importantly, it is real. it is passionate. It extends from one-on-one contact, walking up the nosebleed to give a fan courtside seats, subleasing her boss's suite to the Brooklyn Brigade a night in the boss's suite to how she forced her way past Madison Square Garden security the night they tossed Jeffrey Gamblero out. The stories are legion (as we can attest.)

Thomas writes of a woman who balances her femininity --"She uses her smile; she banters; she dresses to flatter her figure" with her business acumen -- how she was up at 2 a.m. going line-by-line on the costs of an NBA Russian trip with Adam Silver himself.

Thomas tells the story of how she gave up commenting on NetsDaily.

She used to respond to negative comments on Nets Daily, an SBNation fan site, so compulsively that she asked the administrators to deactivate her account. When they told her it was impossible, she asked them to block her so that she couldn’t post.

Although she has no role in basketball operations, there is more than a subtle dig at how the product on the court doesn't match the costs.

"I mean, for me personally, just knowing how much money we spent last year, yeah, I would’ve loved to see more than second round of the playoffs. And I am sure Michael felt the same way."

And hints of disagreements between the business side and the basketball side.

"But we sometimes still don’t feel like we’re in the same boat, especially when the team isn’t playing well. That is when frictions arise. Not even frictions but … "

She is nothing if not direct, a point Thomas reinforces over and over, noting at one point, "There is a sense that her negotiating style is at odds with management’s approach on the basketball side."  Thomas even gets Silver to agree the team might be managed differently if she was in charge. She recounts a careful comment by the commissioner.

I said that it was no secret that the basketball side of the team approached things differently. Silver was careful but pointed in his response. "That’s not how Irina, in my sense, would run the business," he told me, "but she doesn’t claim to be running basketball operations."

The context of a large part of the story is what's next for the Nets? Are they selling ... or would they prefer to sell as much as 49 percent? Pavlova says she doesn't know, that she's out of those discussions, but the Nets sell --or she moves on, there will be a enormous hole in the Nets organization. There's not replacing Irina Pavlova, period.