As Thorn Exits and LeBron Awaits, Nets Have No Plan B
Or opening the sparkling new restaurant before the wait staff is hired.
Or, as is the case with the New Jersey Nets and their much-anticipated courting of LeBron James, being days away from 2010 free agency without defined leadership.
Is this really happening?
Is new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov really proving that the size of the bank account can't always disguise the absence of a savvy plan?
General manager Rod Thorn will indeed walk away next month, with his reasons as unclear as his departure was unexpected. And with James reportedly set to host the Nets, Knicks, Miami, Cleveland and the Clippers in Ohio to weigh his many options, there's simply no way Thorn's exit helps New Jersey's chances at signing the self-proclaimed King. As for the notion that this was all part of Prokhorov's strategy to supplant Thorn with a bigger, more-powerful name like the rumored Jerry Colangelo or Jerry West? It certainly isn't sounding that way.
"It's news to me (that he would be a candidate to replace Thorn)," Colangelo said from Chicago. "I don't know anything about it. I've heard from no one about it at all. First of all, I was surprised with Rod's stepping down. I thought they were committed to him and he to them, so that was surprising. If there was something, I would tell you about it, but there's not."
And if the Nets do come calling?
"You take the call," he answered.
But that's not the point. The point is that there's no Plan B in place that we know of, and it appears the billionaire Russian only figured out half of this equation that -- for now -- isn't adding up to landing James. Unless, that is, Prokhorov plans to bow to the King and let him pick Thorn's successor.
To be clear, his exit didn't come out of nowhere. Thorn told those close to him for weeks that he was confused, wondering why the new guy with the seemingly limitless funds had been such a hard bargainer when it came to his own contract negotiations.
Several sources say there wasn't any negotiation at all, that Thorn -- who is believed to have made approximately $5 million per year previously -- was expected to return on a one-year deal worth between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.
It created an uneasy undercurrent during the Nets' coaching search, with Thorn telling confidants he wasn't entirely sure how much authority he had going forward. A deal was reached with Avery Johnson nonetheless, with the former Dallas coach being given a three-year deal worth $12 million.
Reports that Thorn was offered a two-year, $8 million package to return were refuted by numerous sources close to the situation, with those same people claiming that the notion that the 69-year-old Thorn so badly wanted to retire wasn't consistent with the way he spoke while on the job.
Thorn, however, insists he is going out on his own terms and without any acrimony.
"(I) was not asked to take a pay cut," Thorn told FanHouse via text message. "(I) have no problems with new ownership at all. They will be great."
Thorn would not comment on the accuracy of the reported two-year deal.
As for who's next, there are other names tied to the position around the league, among them recently ousted Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard and San Antonio's R.C. Buford. West, sources say, is more inclined to head for Golden State if Oracle CEO Larry Ellison eventually buys the team. In that scenario, it's believed former Phoenix vice president of basketball operations David Griffin would be a frontrunner to join West and run the day-to-day operations.
The Nets, meanwhile, will know soon enough if these disjointed days lead to James saying Nyet.