Mikhail Prokhorov’s impact on the Nets hasn’t been felt entirely yet. By now, many thought he would have been able to use his money to attract a top-flight NBA player, but he still has time and Carmelo Anthony is still out there.
Anyway, for some reason the Nets seem to like when Prokhorov is in the Prudential Center, sitting above the court in his luxury box and looking down upon them. He was up there last night for the sixth time this season and the Nets won for the fifth time.
More importantly, their 89-74 victory over the Pistons gave the Nets 12 wins. Some teams had that before Thanksgiving. But the fact that the Nets reached that mark while snow still is on the ground and some people still have their Christmas lights is a reason to believe this team is heading in a direction that has shown signs of there being an incline.
I can’t say things are looking all the way up because the Nets still are 19 games under .500, they have no star players and won’t sniff the playoffs as constituted. But anyone who saw this team last season knows the significance of 12 wins and what 13 will mean to some of them.
Devin Harris was asked if he knew how many wins the Nets. A huge smile appeared and he said, “Twelve. Sweet.” Later he pumped his fist.
Harris has been through his own personal struggles this season as someone who thought he was going to be a part of the franchise’s rebirth only to be prominently mentioned in Anthony trade rumors. But it couldn’t match last season. Very little could.
That was a dysfunctional team that had talented players and started the season with a good NBA coach. But Lawrence Frank couldn’t withstand all the injuries and was let go after 16 consecutive losses.
By the time everyone was back healthy and playing near their capabilities, Kiki Vandeweghe was the coach. Many players said it was a situation where they were winning games (occasionally) in spite of him.
The 12th win came in the 79th game. The Nets reached it this year in Game 43. They’re nine games ahead of last year’s pace as they were 3-40 at this stage.
Prokhorov thinks the Nets could have some more wins if the trade stories hadn’t been hanging over the players’ heads as long as they were. It was one of the reasons he pulled the Nets back from the negotiating table.
It was the right move on so many levels. The players can exhale (a little) and the Nuggets know they’re not going to be able to get as much as they want if/when they decide to call back the Nets to see if they can talk.
But for now the Nets are playing a little freer, not looking over their shoulders as much. You see it particularly in Harris these days.
He knows he can’t feel entirely safe, but he has played the past two games as if his only thought was trying to help the Nets get a win. He has shown tremendous professionalism and these past two games great leadership.
Harris had 12 points, nine assists last night and in the fourth quarter, he registered three steals, a block and a charge. He has handled this season as well as anyone could and he had a big game in the Nets’ 12th win. It would be fitting if he has another big one in win 13 whenever that is.
But Prokhorov will be in the house again Saturday night when the Nets play Harris’ old team, the Mavericks. You never know.
“It’s good having him in the building and getting a chance to spend some time with him and talk about our vision and where we want to go. It’s good to have him around. Guys understand he’s made a significant investment and we want to see that his investment brings a good return. But we know it’s going to be a long road. But this is another step in the right direction, back-to-back wins for us at home with just some really good defense.”
- Avery Johnson on Prokhorov’s presence
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)