It started Friday night with Howard Beck tweeting about the possibility that Mikhail Prokhorov may have a secret candidate or secret list of candidates for the GM job.
5. Last time Prokhorov made GM hire, he had a quiet "A" list that never became public. Some execs believe same is happening now.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) February 12, 2016
Then Saturday, Marc Stein tweeted a series of messages that hinted at the name at the top of that list might be (pause for deep breath) R.C. Buford, GM of the Spurs!!
As @HowardBeck also reminded us, Prokhorov tends to have secret candidates. And as we've stated from the start, he's a HUGE fan of RC Buford— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 13, 2016
I never believed they could lure Buford out of San Antonio, but Nets are clearly fans of Spurs model. Hence Sean Marks' rise as a candidate— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 13, 2016
Then, Stein suggested that another Spurs employee is on the short list for head coach.
Russians' Spurs envy also among reasons Ettore Messina increasingly mentioned as a prime coaching target with Tom Thibodeau and David Blatt— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 13, 2016
Well before he all go out and order our Brooklyn Spurs gear, a few points.
There IS a connection --and a strong one-- between Buford, Messina and one member of the GM search committee: Sergey Kushchenko, a member of the Nets board of directors and commissioner of the Russian basketball league.
Kushchenko, Prokhorov's long-time sports adviser, is a close friend of Buford and has privately suggested for years that his boss make a pass at the architect of the Spurs' success. As NetsDaily reported the day of the Hollins - King moves, "Buford also was reportedly Kushchenko's guest in the ONEXIM suite recently." He also visited the HSS Training Center site in early November.
Also, as president of CSKA Moscow, Prokhorov's Euroleague team in the mid 2000's, it was Kushchenko who hired Messina as head coach. The Prokhorov - Kushchenko - Messina combination won two Euroleague titles.
Of course, prying Buford away from San Antonio would seem near impossible, particularly in mid-season and with the Spurs presumably headed for a historic showdown with the Golden State Warriors. In short, Prokhorov is committed to resurrecting the Nets but getting Buford as his savior might require a miracle.
So, there you have it. A surprise candidate. The one thing this narrative needed. All this and the trade deadline too. Stay tuned.