New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been an unshakable little tick on the back of New York Knicks owner James Dolan’s neck. Between ridiculous signs proclaiming the would-be greatness of his franchise, to big-name boasts through the media -- the only thing that the Russian billionaire playboy had actually failed to do up to this point was deliver on his promises.
Because despite his “Blueprint for Greatness” billboard outside of Madison Square Garden during the Nets cartoonish pursuits of free agents over the summer, nobody really took Prokhorov seriously. Everyone was supposed to want to come play with Jay-Z and a cooler, richer Russian Mark Cuban at the helm of a franchise destined for Brooklyn greatness -- yet nobody actually came.
And finally, Prokhorov realized that it was time to try a different approach.
Seeing that nobody actually wanted to venture out to New Jersey, Prokhorov went old-school Russian enforcer style on his next target -- he didn’t give him an option.
The trade for Deron Williams took everyone by surprise, including Williams himself. Privately and to the media, the talented young point guard expressed his shock at the fact that he had been discarded so quickly and without warning by the team that had drafted him out of college.
Nobody saw this move coming, and that’s the brilliant part of it all. On the day when Anthony was to be introduced to the New York media, Prokhorov delivered a legitimate New York style beat down to his Big Apple opponents. Not only did he steal away the player that was considered to be a very likely target for the Knicks in the coming offseasons – he stole the headlines that Dolan and the Knicks had been craving for six months.
Remember, the Knicks gave away everyone but Spike Lee to secure Anthony for their team. Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, draft picks, money – everyone the Nuggets wanted, they got. And why the urgency to get Anthony? Because of the pressure Prokhorov placed on his rivals. If they didn’t get Anthony now, they would regret it. Or so he made them believe.
And just when Dolan figured he had shut up The Russian, The Rapper and the red-headed step child team from across the way – they came back with a move that was arguably bigger than his.
The Nets, courtesy of this deal, get a point guard that could have the type of impact on their roster that Jason Kidd did in early 2000s. Unselfish, talented and smart with the ball, Williams possesses the unique and unteachable ability to both score and pass, as only the truly elite in the league can. If anyone can make a ho-hum squad consisting of Brook Lopez and spare parts into something worth watching, it’s Williams.
Amazingly, the Nets gave up essentially nothing to get Williams. Unlike the Knicks who actually traded away solid -- albeit extremely replaceable -- role players, the Nets lost zero in the way of quality. Derrick Favors? An overrated rookie who had shown nothing in the way of superstar potential? Devin Harris? A player who was once as overrated as Favors is now? Picks?
The best part of it all is that New Jersey didn’t handicap themselves for the future in any way. They still have a ton of cap space to make a run at a big name, still have all of the allure and attractiveness that comes with a new Brooklyn address and a billionaire owner. And now, they have the one thing that all teams hoping to get future free agents wish they had: a top-tier NBA talent who prefers to pass other players the ball.
Prokhorov and his Nets may have 99 Problems, but not having gotten 'Melo ain't one.