When one Nets insider was informed of the big changes in the team hierarchy, his response was, "Well, we still don't have any draft picks."
And that, sports fans, is the ultimate truth. The Nets are in a horrible position and Sunday's moves, while unsurprising and no doubt warranted, don't go to the core of what's wrong with the franchise. In fact, what they do is magnify them.
When Mikhail Prokhorov took over the franchise in 2009-10, during what was the team's worst of many bad seasons, all fans, including us, could see was that pile of cash. At the time, Prokhorov was the richest owner in all sports. Coming after seven years of penny-pinching by Bruce Ratner, it was a joy to behold what those riches could do.
Now, with Prokhorov in full control of the team and its arena and the team's future a bleak landscape, there is a downside that we didn't see: One-stockholder companies, no matter how wealthy that stockholder, don't have a lot of controls, don't relish skepticism and often eschew the long-term for the quick hit.
The Nets big issue is that there aren't a lot of people inside the organization who could say "no," who even knew enough to say "yes" or "no." Decision-making was kept to a small group who shared an opportunistic mindset, rather than long-term thinking. Dissenting opinions were often dismissed, as were those who pushed them. People who stay learn to shut up.
The "small group" ethos works well in some places, in some instances but when it's the corporate culture, it leads to what we have seen the last few years. Individuals get spun up and recycle each others' thinking in a go-go environment. DO IT! DO IT NOW! We won't need those draft picks. We'll be a contender forever! We don't need those protections. There aren't that many good prospects! That kid in Argentina. He's the next Manu!
It also leads to cronyism in hiring. Loyalty is paramount. Few people hired in recent years don't have a connection to Billy King. The two most recent hires, Rob Bender and Randy Ayers, both worked with King. Bender was an assistant coach at Duke when King was a player!
None of this should dismiss Mikhail Prokhorov GREAT accomplishments. HE got the team to Brooklyn. It was HIS money that convinced investors to buy into the Barclays Center. HE paid out $123 million in luxury taxes in hopes of winning a championship. HE invested enormously in the bricks and mortar of the NBA, whether Barclays Center, the HSS Training Center or Nassau Coliseum, soon to be the most lavish digs of any D-League team. Similarly, no one in the organization cared as much as Dmitry Razumov.
But the Nets need more than bricks and mortar. They need leadership, they need competence, they need an open environment where dissenting view are heard. THEY NEED A STRATEGIC PLAN. The Thunder plans out two years into the fuure, we've been told. Everyone in the Spurs organization knows what's going on.
The Nets are not doomed. They are in New York, although fading fast. They play in a great facility. Ownership does care, yes, does spend money, but Sunday's events show that for all their willingness to change. they still don't get it. No one on the team, in senior staff knew about the changes before the press release was written and released. If you need an example of how the franchise is still stuck in the same corporate culture, that was it.