Call it the Ownership Credibility Index. We do. We just made it up. In the world of basketball analytics, it’s not as big as WARP or PIE or EFG, but it matters big time to fans.
What we mean by OCI? It measures an NBA ownership group’s willingness to spend money, to gain credibility not just among fans or their fellow owners, but among free agents as well.
Here’s one data point: How many NBA team properties has an ownership group invested in? Only four groups currently control an NBA franchise, a WNBA franchise, a G League franchise and an NBA2K franchise. They are the Pacers, Wizards, Lakers ... and Nets.
Here’s another: How many NBA teams have invested lately in new practice facilities? It’s approaching 10 since 2016, including the Lakers, Pacers, Hawks, Bucks, Celtics, 76ers ... and Nets. The Pistons are opening theirs soon.
And if you want to talk about new arenas opened this decade, there’s the Kings, Pistons, Bucks ... and Nets.
An adroit reader might note that when you combine ALL those lists and shake them out, only one team makes them all ... the one you root for. Simply put, Mikhail Prokhorov and his minority partner, Joe Tsai, have quietly been spending a LOT of money on your Brooklyn Nets brand, whether it’s paying the league for the rights to set up a G League team or an esports team, buying a WNBA team or building new facilities.
(It should be noted that while Prokhorov and Tsai are partners in the Nets of Brooklyn and Long Island as well as NetsGC, Tsai is the owner of the Liberty and Prokhorov the owner of Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. Still, they are working in sync.)
And we haven’t even talked about CHINA yet. As Brian Windhorst noted of the Nets on his podcast last month, “they will have the NBA’s first Chinese owner in Joseph Tsai who is going to be one of the richest owners in America. They have a chance to become the NBA’s Chinese team.“
This week, Tsai’s Alibaba —essentially the Amazon of Greater China— agreed to a deal with the NBA to provide an “NBA Section” filled with NBA content to his 700 million customers. In a lot of different ways, Tsai is indeed very aggressive in carving out a niche for the team he will control after 2021.
On Friday, Brian Lewis quoted Derek Zhang, the head of NBA China who’s known Tsai since their days at Yale, on the Nets new owner’s ambitions. Tsai is in addition to the Nets alternate governor on the League’s board of governors on NBA China’s board of directors.
“Definitely Joe being a 49 percent owner of the Nets is huge,” Chang told The Post, adding. “With Joe’s involvement only increasing, I’d see more opportunities for them [the Nets] to do things in China. … If a team’s good and has good players, fans in China are knowledgeable: They’ll take to that team. … “
How does Chang see Tsai helping both in China and in Brooklyn?
“Content, e-commerce, application of data to our business, he’s obviously so steeped in all that. He’s got a very big [impact] in our business. Having him on the inside will be great for us.”
“Yeah, definitely [it helps],” Chang added.
Expect next October’s preseason games vs. the Lakers in Shanghai and Shenzhen to be a big milestone.
“The Brooklyn Nets are young and trending. We play an exciting brand of basketball,” Tsai told The Post. “With the Lakers being the Lakers, it’ll be a hell of a showdown in China. This is great for Brooklyn, for our players and for our fans.”
“Look at the Nets performances this year. They’re a team on the rise,” Zhang added.
Of course, this summer may once again test the owners’ commitment. Sean Marks has said Prokhorov and Tsai are committed to providing the team with what they need ... including financial credibility when free agent contracts are getting drawn up ... and luxury taxes tallied. Prokhorov, it should be noted, didn’t just write checks for Barclays, Nassau and the HSS Center. No owner has paid out more in luxury taxes, around $125 million.
“They’ve both shown the support we need from a basketball operations department,” Marks said last week about Prokhorov and Tsai. “The ultimate goal for everybody is to win the whole thing. 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.”
Will free agents understand it all. Again, Windhorst.
“Am I way off base about Kevin Durant, thinking about the Knicks and Kyrie thinking about the Knicks, whomever, Am I crazy here to suggest that the Nets are an option here? Am I crazy here.?”
Not based on the Ownership Credibility Index. (Trademark pending?)
- How Nets co-owner Joe Tsai is a key booster for NBA in China - Brian Lewis - New York Post