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Will New Nets Owner's Social Reputation Hurt or Help?

Sep 24, 2009 – 10:32 AM
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Tom Ziller

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Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski has a tour de force column on what the kids would refer to as Mikhail Prokhorov's steez. The new Nets owner has quite the social reputation (that's one way of putting it), and Woj investigates fully ...

... just as the NBA plans to. One of the conditions for the sale of the Nets to the Russian billionaire is approval by the NBA Board of Governors, which is a fancy name for the collection of NBA owners. Twenty-two of the other 29 owners must give the thumbs-up before Prokhorov can take the reins. An NBA official told FanHouse Wednesday this could happen at the league meetings in October or April, or by correspondence at any point.

The question is whether any owners will raise a stink about Prokhorov's reputation, which includes accusations of involvement in a prostitute ring and, less criminally, a desire to have good-looking women around at all times.

Woj quotes two anonymous NBA executives who attended the Euroleague Final Four (where Prokhorov's CSKA Moscow competed). The execs, Woj writes, "marveled over the spillover of Prokhorov-supplied blondes and brunettes that turned the tournament locale into a remote Playboy Mansion." This is not couched as some sort of demerit -- in fact, Woj seems to argue this will help Prokhorov connect with his millionaire players. To which I say ... well, duh.

The matter of the alleged prostitution ring is a bit more serious, and could potentially draw some attention from other owners and the league office itself. Julian Garcia of the New York Daily News recently reported on Prokhorov's involvement. The billionaire was arrested and detained in the French Alps in 2007 for suspected involvement in a prostitution ring -- it was thought that Prokhorov flew women into vacation spots to serve his friends and associates, with the women, of course, getting paid for their time spent. Prokhorov was released without charges being brought, however.

Still, a New Jersey congressman is calling for a full investigation of Prokhorov by the NBA -- even if said congressman thinks the NBA's commissioner is actually Joe Pesci's dumb sidekick in the Home Alone movies. The congressman's interest is surely more tied to the specific new brand of New Jersey pride that has sought to bury Brooklyn and get the Nets to Newark, where a nice new arena could use an NBA team. But Congress is Congress, and it's notable that there is wide interest in painting this Russian with the traditional Cold War era Russian paintbrush.

Where the real damage will be done over the next few years is in the New York media, where every report of a lavish Prokhorov party will be accompanied by snarky headlines and faux-puritanical finger-wagging. Certain sectors of journalism know how to prosecute the young and rich in the public eye -- heck, basketball players know that better than most. While I won't cry for Prokhorov's coming exposure, and obviously think any illegal activity should be covered vigorously, I'm a bit worried this will all become a Page Six running gag, and Nets players (current and future) will be tarred by association. What's the saying? "Don't hate the player?"
Filed under: Sports