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Part of Mikhail Prokhorov's stated rationale for buying the Nets is that it will open doors to NBA training techniques, technology and jobs that will benefit Russian basketball. It's a shame that he didn't pull the deal off before the existence of the internet and satellite television.
To anyone who has watched the Nets in the last couple of years, it's obvious that the Nets have as much to teach the world about hoops as Pauly Shore has to teach about the classic techniques of filmmaking. In a simpler time, no one would know that the Nets weren't a breeding ground of great basketball. Alas, it seems that Prokhorov's buddies back in Russia have also gotten wind of just how little the Nets have to teach anyone about becoming a basketball power.
Two members of Russia's upper parliament chamber weighed in on the deal, and they sound unconvinced about the chance that access to Brook Lopez will tilt the basketball globe in Russia's favor.
"I can't consider this action as anything other than unpatriotic," sports committee member Aslambek Aslakhanov said Thursday, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti. "We also have talented children here, but sports isn't being developed. They're not trying in order for us to return to our former sports ranking of best in the world."
"I don't deny that Mikhail Prokhorov has put money into developing sports in Russia, but I would have liked all the means he considered possible to have gone to specifically supporting sports in the fatherland," upper-chamber legislator Viktor Ozerov was quoted as saying."
Buying the Nets and half an arena in Brooklyn makes plenty of sense for Prokhorov. If the $200 million price is correct and the move goes through, he almost certainly bought at the bargain basement prices to bail out a very motivated seller. It gives him a foothold in the United States through a sport that the 6-foot-6 billionaire played when he was younger. There's a good chance that he can use his money to turn the Nets into a winning team, with no concerns about luxury taxes or anything else that hamstrings more penurious owners, and can follow the blueprint of the way countryman Roman Abramovich has turned English soccer on its head with his stewardship of Chelsea.
All those things make a lot more sense than the idea that the thing holding Russian basketball back was a lack of access to the Nets weight room. Prokhorov's got enough cash to bring any equipment, instructors and players he thinks will make a difference to Russia without the intermediate step of buying a team. Abramovich has done well in the English Premier League, but soccer in Russia isn't any better off for his involvement. It's hard to imagine that basketball will be any different.
That hardly makes the deal unpatriotic, but it doesn't make it patriotic either.