Is the high-profile, brassy persona of Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov good for his team's image?
That Prokhorov dismissed the 5'6" tall James Dolan as "that little man" (via ESPN.com) in a recent interview with New York Magazine should not be surprising. Prokhorov is planting the seeds for a crosstown rivalry between the Nets and Knicks to generate ticket sales.
However, when one walks across the Barclay's Center / Atlantic Terminal subway stop, there are four billboards promoting the new-look Nets. Deron Williams is an All-Star and a father of four children. Gerald Wallace is an avid fisherman. Brook Lopez is Batman's biggest fan. And Joe Johnson is an Arkansas Razorback for life.
What do these three slogans have in common? They are promoting a team of not just talented NBA players but good citizens who are quiet, provincial heroes—a profile in stark contrast to the more boisterous New York Knicks led by the mercurial Carmelo Anthony.
Prokhorov's statement fails to build on this contrast. In fact, it undermines it. Yes, James Dolan has had a poor track record with the New York Knicks and is routinely considered one of the worst managers in the NBA.
But the Nets have yet to play a single game in New York—a shortcoming which probably needs to be addressed before Prokhorov takes on New York-levels of brashness.
There may be a time when the Brooklyn Nets develop enough swagger to taunt the Knicks. That time may be soon given the Nets talented lineup of young players with upside (Lopez, Marshon Brooks) and All-Star players (Williams, Johnson).
If the Nets can quickly develop their offensive chemistry and shore up their interior defense, they may even make it into the second round of the NBA playoffs.
On the other hand, if the Nets turn out to be only a .500 team or worse, they won't win a battle of bravado against the Knicks, who have exclusively defined professional basketball in New York for the last four decades.
The high-profile Prokhorov must bear some of the responsibility of maintaining the Nets reputation as a new New York-based team that has a great upside and a distaste for tabloid fodder.
Otherwise, the Nets may be cast under both Prokhorov's shadow and that of the New York Knicks in 2012-13.