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Dan Devine

Mikhail Prokhorov: Cleaning out the closet with a confident smirk

Just one day after launching his bid to become the world's most famous (non-Canadian) NBA video podcaster, Mikhail Prokhorov, the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, sat down with TNT's David Aldridge to discuss the future of his shiny new investment as part of a media blitz at the NBA Draft Lottery in Seacaucus, N.J. (For a good link roundup of the press' Prokhorov feeding frenzy, check out NetsDaily.)

In a clip from the conversation — according to Aldridge's Twitter feed, the full interview will air Wednesday night on TNT prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns — Prokhorov lays out what he believes to be the organization's strengths moving forward, including "two competitive advantages."

"We are creating history practically from scratch now, and it's a great excitement — and our desire to win is really great," Prokhorov said. "Our second competitive advantage, being the first foreign owner, is to create a really global team, with fans all around the world. And I feel pretty sure [I will be able] to persuade the best of the best that the Nets is the place they need to be."

It's pretty easy to put your pencil down on the "global team" remark and draw a line straight to the still-ringing-in-our-ears phrase "global icon." According to salary cap guru Larry Coon, the Nets have about $25 million in cap space to use this summer, enough to comfortably fit one max-contract free agent under the cap and still have roughly $8.5 million worth of flexibility. Hey, wait a sec! LeBron James(notes) is a free agent! Speculation Hova speculation Brooklyn speculation money speculation Russia!

In the interest of moving away (if only for a moment) from the "WHERE'S LEBRON GONNA GO?!?!" meme, let's focus more on that first advantage. It comes off a bit wrong, doesn't it? Sure, no one's likely to confuse the Nets' history for that of the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, but it's not like the historical cupboard's entirely bare.

This franchise won the final ABA title in 1975-76 and once showcased the talents of Hall of Famers Rick Barry, Julius Erving and Nate "Tiny" Archibald. It provided the stage (all too briefly) for Drazen Petrovic to set fans' hearts aflame; for many young cats coming up in the early '90s, the gone-too-soon sharpshooter opened eyes to the tidal wave of overseas talent that would soon break on NBA shores. In more recent years, it fielded Jason Kidd(notes)-helmed teams that represented the (admittedly awful) Eastern Conference in back-to-back NBA finals in 2001-02 and 2002-03. (Ed. note: And Keith Van Horn!)

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The impulse to bulldoze the museums and burn down the libraries after an abysmal 12-70 season is understandable, and I'm sure all Prokhorov's talk about a "new way" is energizing the Nets' base. You just hope that Prokhorov isn't so eager for a clean slate that he wipes away the franchise's memories worth saving, few as they are.

Whether or not traveling the road to progress will mean leaving the past behind, Prokhorov told Aldridge that he'll continue to follow the same business model that's made him a billionaire entrepreneur in his native Russia.

"I will invite all the very best people I can, and I never interfere [in] the day-to-day business," Prokhorov said evenly. "And I give staff the right to make mistakes. It's very important."

Asked how patient he will be as the Nets set about the rebuilding process — a process the new boss has said he expects to result in a playoff trip next year and a championship within five, if all goes according to plan — Prokhorov said, "I never lose my cool." When Aldridge asks why not, Prokhorov offered an elan-infused shrug, then replied, "It is my day-to-day practice."

So the Nets new owner is a brash, calm, impossibly rich man who exists in a Dude-like state of perpetual abiding, targets talented executives and lets them do their jobs, and envisions his franchise as a global property that he can shape in his own self-assured image. Forget about winning for a sec — does this mean that, for the first time since Doc's Afro flew the friendly skies, the Nets could be ... cool?

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