By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mikhail Prokhorov just can't help tweaking the Knicks in his ongoing quest to make the Brooklyn Nets New York's marquee NBA attraction.
The billionaire Nets owner called Knicks owner James Dolan "that little man" in a recently published article in New York Magazine, his latest barb at the Cablevision magnate and chief rival in the ever-blossoming East River feud between the two franchises.
While disclosing that he would make sure to travel from his native Russia to Downtown Brooklyn for at least a quarter of the Nets' games this coming season, as well as all of their playoff contests, the metal tycoon and former Russian presidential candidate couldn't resist lobbing yet another verbal grenade across the Brooklyn Bridge toward the Knicks and their boss-of-all-bosses.
Back in October 2010, Prokhorov boldly declared the Nets' arrival as a legitimate contender for the Big Apple hoops fanbase by placing a billboard adjacent to Dolan's Madison Square Garden, declaring his team's Blueprint for Greatness. The Knicks returned fire with a well-aimed TV promo on MSG Network, reminding the Nets that, "You can walk like us, you can talk like us, but you ain't never gonna be like us."
Prokhorov immediately fired back, indicating that the Nets would prefer to be more like the Los Angeles Lakers, who have captured 16 NBA Championships compared to the Knicks' two. Ouch!
For the record, the Nets, to date, have yet to win an NBA crown.
Dolan, who has remained mum on the matter, did swipe Brooklyn-born forward Carmelo Anthony from under Prokhorov's nose prior to the 2011 trade deadline, denying the Nets a chance to have a homegrown talent usher in their inaugural campaign in our fair borough when the Barclays Center will host the Nov. 1 opener against none other than Dolan's Knicks. The Nets also pursued Amar'e Stoudemire prior to the 2010-11 campaign, only to watch him sign with the Knicks as well.
The Nets responded this summer with the most spectacular offseason in the team's star-crossed history, re-signing All-Star point guard Deron Williams, trade-deadline acquisition Gerald Wallace, 7-foot center Brook Lopez, power forward Kris Humphries and acquiring six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from Atlanta, all at a cost of well over $300 million.
Prokhorov hasn't limited his verbal warfare to Dolan, however, as he told reporters back in April during a visit to the nearly complete Barclays Center that he would engage in a "kickboxing throwdown" with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for the services of Williams during free agency. He won that battle, and is clearly anxious to usurp the Knicks' throne as they remain the royalty of NYC basketball entering this campaign.
His players, to a degree, have followed suit. Though Williams has taken the high road when asked about whether the Nets could unseat the Knicks in the hearts of New York basketball fanatics, his $90 million backcourt mate, Johnson, boasted that the Nets were now the "best team" in the five boroughs during a welcoming bash at Brooklyn Borough Hall last month.
"I'm just looking forward to having a good team out there and going into Brooklyn," Williams said during a visit to the Barclays Center last week. "It's going to be exciting for us, it's going to be exciting for the fans and the people of Brooklyn. We're just excited to get out there and represent them."
Anthony, who recently scored his second gold medal alongside Williams at the London Olympics, has held his tongue in check, citing the Nets' trash-talking as nothing more than hype for what will ultimately be proven on the court in less than three months when the Knicks invade Downtown Brooklyn to spoil Opening Night.
NBA commissioner David Stern, who welcomed Prokhorov and his billions into the league with open arms, has to be grinning at what may turn out to be one of the sport's most intense rivalries once the opening tip goes up Nov. 1.
“I am hoping, for more sparks, a few verbal, some build up,” Stern noted prior to June's NBA Draft. “We are going to have two spectacular new buildings in New York City [the renovated MSG and the Barclays Center], and we are going to have two very aggressively managed teams. I think there’s going to be a real conversation, and there are lots of baseball fans that see the Brooklyn Nets as a legitimate successor to the Brooklyn Dodgers. I think that we are going to have a great rivalry."
It appears we have one already, even if it's just being staged through the media, rather than on the hardwood.
Like an underdog fighter promoting a big bout with the reigning champ, Prokhorov keeps punching away at Dolan. The Knicks, thus far, appear to be holding back their big punches for the real fight.
August 21, 2012 - 1:32pm