Nets move on with plan without LeBron

Updated: July 13, 2010, 7:38 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Despite making what he felt was an outstanding presentation to LeBron James in free agency, new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov had a hunch the two-time MVP wasn't coming to New Jersey.

Addressing beat writers in a 45-minute sitdown at a posh midtown hotel, Prokhorov said Tuesday once James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to play together in Miami, the Nets had no problem switching plans and signing young players for a lot less money.

The Russian billionaire asked Nets fans who endured a 12-70 season to remain patient, saying his young team will fight for the playoffs next season, and that his goal of winning a title in five years is on track. He added the team has financial flexibility and is still looking to acquire a superstar in a trade over the next two years.

The biggest job for Prokhorov now is replacing outgoing president and general manager Rod Thorn, who will be leaving on Friday. He has personally interviewed at least five candidates, noting he needs to feel the chemistry of the relationship.

Prokhorov had some interviews on Tuesday, although he would not say with whom he met.

He also would not say who was in contention for the job. Billy King, Kevin Pritchard and Danny Ferry have been mentioned as possible replacements, with King and Ferry emerging as the leading candidates.

Prokhorov hopes to make a decision soon.

The 45-year-old Prokhorov didn't even bother to watch James' much-hyped free-agency announcement on Thursday. He was in Moscow and had gone to bed. When he woke up, he had his secretary check the Internet. He's not a techie.

"I was sure what was his choice before," Prokhorov said.

Prokhorov insisted that the Nets only went after James, Wade and Bosh, with whom he'd met face-to-face on July 1. He noted the team had four plans for free agency.

While Thorn talked to the agents for power forwards David Lee and Carlos Boozer, Prokhorov said the Nets were not willing to pay them top dollar because they were not good enough to lead the team to a championship.

"What I like from this free-agency period is we have made no mistake," Prokhorov said. "This is very important. We still have the goal of a championship team and we are not in a hurry to make stupid mistakes to just get the player to make us better, but not a championship team. This is different strategy. An absolutely different strategy.

"It's easy to make a top-five team: good enough to make playoffs, reach maybe the conference finals," Prokhorov said. "But you will never win the championship."

Prokhorov, who can spend as much money as he wants to stock his team in Russia, said he likes the NBA salary cap.

"It's more difficult here and more competitive and I like this more," he said. "It's more intellectual, more complicated."

Since taking over ownership of the Nets in May, Prokhorov said he has spent nearly 85 percent of his time concentrating on the team. That includes four trips between New York and Moscow, and another to Las Vegas for the recent meeting of league owners.

Replacing Thorn is his biggest priority. The new executive will handle both the jobs of president and general manager, which is what Thorn did in recent months after Prokhorov decided not to renew Kiki Vandeweghe's job as general manager.

In his first meeting with the media, Prokhorov blurted out that Vandeweghe would not be coming back.

This time, he was more aware of protocol and had no surprises when asked who would replace the 69-year-old Thorn.

"It's coming," Prokhorov said. "It's not easy. We are going to build a championship team and we need a general manager with great ambitions. He needs to be one of the best in the league with very good link with league, strong enough to work in metropolitan New York. It's a special decision. That's why we are not in a hurry. I need to smell everything myself because I take all the responsibility with what goes on with the team."

Prokhorov said he wanted Thorn to stay but didn't try to talk him out of his decision.

The dry sense of humor that Prokhorov displayed in his first meeting with the media was on display again.

He joked about the gigantic billboard that the team put up near Madison Square Garden, the home of the rival Knicks. It featured Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z.

"I am looking into the possibility of buying this building and moving to Moscow and putting it across from Red Square near the Kremlin," he quipped.

The jet-setting bachelor also joked he would get married if he does not deliver on his promise of winning a title in five years, saying the only thing that is important is the results.

The Nets will move from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., to Newark next season and eventually move to Brooklyn for the 2012 season. He had a message for supporters.

"Be patient," he said. "Support our team. We will win for sure. And trust me the next season will be completely different, aggressive, young. Now we have a really good ambition: to beat Miami Heat."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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