It’s a bit of an odd pairing —the NBA’s first owners from Russia and greater China— with very different timelines. Mikhail Prokhorov who agreed to buy the team 10 years ago this September and is slowly headed to the sidelines. Joe Tsai who will take over from him in two years then plans to keep the team for the rest of his life. A Russian oligarch and a Taiwanese/Canadian tech giant.
Yet despite all of that, Sean Marks says his two multi-billionaire owners (with an estimated net worth of $21.5 billion Monday morning, almost equally divided) are on the same page, reports Brian Lewis.
“That’s probably one of the greatest things about [them], and a credit to Mikhail and Joe. I haven’t noticed a differing of opinions. Both collaborate,” Marks told The Post. “I collaborate with them a lot. There’s no surprises. Just like within my group. I don’t like to hear surprises, they don’t like to hear surprises either.
“We talk about everything well in advance. Every little nuance, every little option that could be there and should be there and probably won’t be there. But they’ve both shown the support we need from a basketball operations department.”
More importantly, perhaps, is their willingness to provide Marks with resources. Prokhorov, of course, was crucial to getting the billion dollar Barclays Center built and the $50 million HSS Training Center set up and outfitted. Not to mention the more than $100 million in luxury taxes he paid only five years ago.
Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, promises to continue the trend and has already committed a billion dollars to buy 49 percent of the team with an option to buy control in 2021. Tsai is likely to be the principal owner when the Nets pay out the big bucks to free agents signed the next two summers. As Lewis writes, free agents like Kawhi Leonard and Kristaps Porzingis won’t come cheap. (Yes, he used those names as examples.)
For Marks, that’s at the very least comforting as he tries to keep his eye on the prize.
“The ultimate goal for everybody is to win the whole thing,” Marks said. “So however you get there and whenever you get there, and whatever route you take, they’ve got to understand “Hey, this is in the cards.” If you look at what Mikhail’s done in the past, he’s not afraid to step up.
“They’re both astute businessmen, so they understand what’s at stake. So at the right time — whenever that may be — where we have to go in that direction, it’s about making sure that they’re educated on what that may mean, what’s this mean long term, what’s this mean a year out from now? It’s just make sure there’s clear and open communication between ownership and basketball operation.”
Tsai of course is becoming bigger than just the owner-in-waiting. He’s bought the New York Liberty and already started spending money, according to the AP. He’s also on the board of NBA China, an entity with a valuation of $4 billion.
There may be trouble ahead which considering their ties to Russia and China shouldn’t be surprising. TrueHoop.com, a new website run by former ESPN writer Henry Abbott, says it will launch with an report entitled, “Investigating Mikhail Prokhorov,” and Tsai has repeatedly criticized the Trump Administration’s trade war with China.
Bottom line: watch this space. There’ll be plenty to read.
- The Nets’ ownership situation is no battle of the billionaires - Brian Lewis - New York Post