By Cory Bernstein
Little argument would be found around the NBA that the Nets are a team on the rise. The Nets probably hit their low point as a franchise two seasons ago, when the highlight of the season was when Brett Yormark tried to fight a fan. Once again, the CEO of the Nets TRIED TO FIGHT A FAN! But, the Nets have been able to rebound from the abyss of the NBA nicely.
As we all know, after six months of excruciating talks with the Nuggets to acquire Carmelo Anthony, which may have directly resulted in Derrick Favors’ career being ruined and Chris Broussard’s head exploding, the Nets got Deron Williams. A real superstar, not a faux one like Anthony, Williams immediately gave Mikhail the “franchise player” boost he so sorely wanted. The move gave some instant credibility to the Nets, and their best player since Jason Kidd.
Despite all of this, the Nets have one huge problem.
They may be the least “cool” team in the entire NBA.
This may not seem like a huge deal, but cool is what sells jerseys, cool sells hat, cool makes water cooler conversations, cool sells tickets. When you think of the Nets, everything about them is just weird. From quarter filled arenas to Travis Outlaw’s receding hairline afro (the first of its kind), to Brook Lopez, the Nets are just weird. Just look at the team picture. It just looks like a bunch of misfits and losers in basketball uniforms. To become the “global empire” Mikhail Prokhorov so much wants the Nets to become, they need to become cool. The Nets not only want to be good, they want every seventeen year old boy in the tri-state area rocking a D-Will jersey. To do this, some big changes need to be made.
1. Ditch the Uniforms- The Nets easily have the worst uniforms in the NBA. I am a huge fan of jerseys, and their importance on the look of a team. This year, people thought the Warriors were a sleeper team to make the playoffs. Despite trading three solid rotation players (Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, and Anthony Randolph) to the Knicks for the worst defensive player (including you, Travis Outlaw) in the NBA (David Lee), many saw Golden State as a popular sleeper pick to make the playoffs Why? Because of their new uniforms.
This may sound crazy, but apply it to real life. Two guys are trying to apply for a job at your company. The first guy is wearing an old, wrinkly suit that’s five sizes too big with this tie on. The second guy is wearing a $500 Armani suit, shined shoes, and a normal tie around his neck. Immediately, the second guy has a decisive advantage in the interview over the first guy. He looks more professional than the first guy, so it is assumed that he will act this way as well. (Mike’s edit: Then again, a $500 suit means he doesn’t really need the job, therefore he may not give it his all)
The same thing subconsciously applies to sports. We expect teams like the Warriors or the Chargers to be good because they look good. When you look at the Nets jerseys, it is just assumed that they suck. Their jerseys look like a preschooler made them in a design-a-jersey contest. What the Nets need to do is bring back their 90’s jerseys for next season.
They are really cool jerseys, and retro jerseys always sell very well. A new look for a new Nets team would be the perfect icing on the cake that is Deron Williams and Mikhail Prokhorov. It’s the last year the Nets will probably be referred to by that name, so they should bring back arguably their best jerseys for this occasion. When the Nets tried this in 2003 with their ABA uniforms, it worked really well. They looked like a group of professionals, something that the Nets need to be next season.
2. Get a goon - No, The Nets don’t need to go out and get the next Ron Artest or JR Rider, but something to spice up the team would be nice. The Nets need someone on the floor who doesn’t take crap from other players. If there’s ever a problem, they need a goon who can stand up to for his guys and tell them how it is. This will immediately get fans talking about the Nets and their tough style of play.
Earlier in the week, I talked about Jonas Jerekbo coming to Newark next season. He can somewhat fill this role on the team. He plays hard, and is willing to sacrifice his body for the ball. By no means will Jerekbo be an All-Star, but he would help the Nets on the court a lot from a toughness standpoint. Despite the nice fit that Jerekbo (and to a lesser extent Turiaf) would be, there is an even better crazy guy on the market.
It has been known that he is on the trade block, and what better partner than the Nets to make a deal. The Nets could give up Travis Outlaw, Damion James (who is a legitimate trade chip) and three million dollars for Captain Jack. With the amnesty clause expected to be put into place next season, meaning that teams can wipe one contract off their salary cap, it would make this trade even easier. Michael Jordan has said he wants to get younger and turnover the roster, and this trade would help him do that.
Jackson would provide great value for the Nets as well. Travis Outlaw wore out his welcome in about nine seconds with the Nets, and it would be best for both sides to part ways. Jackson also fits the exact bill of the player the Nets need. He is a veteran wingman who can play make shots and defend the other team’s best guard. He has calmed down dramatically from his Indiana days, and Deron Williams’ leadership will keep him under control. But, he still plays with a competitiveness and aggression that would add a new identity to the Nets. Jackson would help make the Nets into a cool team because of he gives his 100% every single night.
When people talk about Stephen Jackson, this video is always discussed, and for good reason. He did go into the stands and start beating the crap out of people, making for the most embarrassing and horrifying moment in the NBA’s history that doesn’t involve the name “Donaghy”. But, Jackson has calmed down enough from that point to be seen as somewhat sane. He can now control his emotions, and this makes him really a popular option for the Nets. No player in the NBA is still going to mess with Stephen Jackson, as they know what he’s capable of doing to protect his teammates. This attitude is what we as Net fans need to make our team more popular, and also much better.
3. Mikhail should sit courtside- It’s a no-brainer that Mikhail Prokhorov should be doing his best Mark Cuban imitation every time he goes to see a Nets game. He is as entertaining as any owner in sports besides Cuban, and needs to reach the full potential of his comedy and craziness. Fans would go nuts when Prokhorov bellows about a bad call or does a Tiger fist pump when Deron Williams nails a three. The Ice Lounge is not where Mikhail should be spending his time at the Prudential Center.
This spring, it proved greater than ever that the owner has an immense effect on a team. Mark Cuban’s attitude and willingness to put his bank account on his line to protect his players changed the way they played. Knowing that playing hard, and sometimes dirty basketball was not going to get them punished certainly made the Mavs more willing to play with such passion. Mikhail needs to follow in his long lost American brother’s footsteps and begin protecting his players through becoming as outspoken as possible. By sitting courtside during games, Mikhail can show his devotion and dedication to the Nets, even if he is only going to ten or fifteen games a year.
Watch this video. There’s no way that after seeing two minutes of celebration that you could say the owner has no affect on the team. Cuban is a huge Mavericks fan who just happens to own the team. He doesn’t put himself above the players or the fans, and this makes him immensely popular. Prokhorov can begin to do this by sitting courtside. It will instantaneously give him respect amongst the fans, but more importantly the players in the locker room. This article is about making the Nets “cool”, but nothing will make the Nets cool faster than if they start winning games. And Prokhorov acting like a fan rather than an owner will make the players happier to be a Net, and in turn better.
Remember, Mikhail Prokhorov was involved in the greatest 60 Minutes segment of all time and a video that made him seem like a terrorist from “24”. The man is actually insane, and he may as well show it in a way that helps the team. We all know that The Prok is cheering in his private suite upstairs, so he has nothing to hide by sitting courtside. It gives Mikhail the image of a fan who owns the Nets, instead of some random billionaire asshole like Donald Sterling. Sitting courtside has countless benefits for Mikhail Prokhorov.
Once again, the Nets becoming cool again can be solved by one thing: winning. But, by doing these three things The Nets would immediately become more popular, and probably benefit on the basketball court. New jerseys have been needed in New Jersey for some time, and Stephen Jackson would help make the Nets into a playoff-caliber team, something Jackson has not been a part of for much of his career. Mikhail Prokhorov should sit courtside for Nets games to increase his popularity and marketability as one of the few accessible owners in the NBA. The Nets may not be “cool” by NBA standards yet, but they could be with these changes.
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