Owner selling Deron Williams on Nets

Updated: March 5, 2011, 12:11 PM ET
By Ian Whittell | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

LONDON -- Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets, will use this two-game road trip to London to start the process of persuading his new point guard Deron Williams to pledge his long-term future to the team.

The Nets owner, speaking before his team played the Toronto Raptors Friday in the first NBA regular season game to be played in Europe, revealed he has already had a brief conversation with the former Utah Jazz player.

When asked if he was disappointed with the Nets' failure to secure Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, Prokhorov also declared himself "happy" with his team's efforts in acquiring new personnel before last month's trade deadline.

Williams
Williams

And, in his first and most extensive pronouncements since Williams joined the team -- in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and cash on Feb. 23 -- Prokhorov outlined how he hopes to persuade his new signing to remain with the Nets rather than opt for free agency at the end of the 2011-12 season.

"I am very happy, personally," said Prokhorov at a pregame press conference. "We have our first All-Star player on our roster.

"We had a chat with him in San Antonio, just 10 or 15 minutes, and I feel he likes the idea of the organization, of the Nets. We are not in a rush. We have one and a half years to make a really good team and then go on and win a championship, because that is our one goal.

"We only had a 10-minute chat after the game and he was really tired. I think we will meet here in London for a more substantial meeting, for a global discussion. For me, it is very interesting, the reaction of an All-Star player, what he is feeling about what is going on in the global world. I have one approach, maybe he feels something different.

"But from that first meeting, we have a lot in common. He wants to be No. 1, we want to be No. 1. We are on the same page. That is very important."

Prokhorov is clearly pinning his hopes of convincing Williams to make a long-term commitment to his club on his own vision of turning the Nets into a global brand to rival the NBA's Lakers and some of the world's big soccer clubs.

Nets management has already taken the team to the headquarters of British bank Barclays, which has paid for the naming rights to the team's new arena in Brooklyn, and will hold further meetings with existing sponsors and potential partners from Russia and elsewhere in Europe over the weekend.

The phrase "global franchise" was uttered often by Prokhorov, who revealed the Nets have also held talks with the English Premier League over ways in which they might work together.

However, the best off-court efforts will count for nothing if Prokhorov is unable to convince Williams, and players like him, to sign long-term commitments with the Nets.

"With Deron Williams, we have a really good opportunity to make a really good team," he added. "But he is not the first step, he is the second step. We have a winning coach, we have a very strong front office. We changed the environment a lot. We are underdogs but we are underdogs with talent.

"I am very happy with what we did [at the trade deadline]. In the NBA, the most important position is point guard and center. That is what we have done."

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