At the trading deadline in 2008, the Nets landed a cornerstone of their rebuilding effort, making a blockbuster trade to ship out Jason Kidd and bring in franchise point guard Devin Harris.
In the '08 draft, they landed two big impact players, nabbing a bulky seven-footer in Brook Lopez and a potent wing scorer in Chris Douglas-Roberts.
A month later, they added to their stockpile of young talent, shipping Richard Jefferson's fat contract to Milwaukee for another seven-footer, Yi Jianlian.
Then, this summer, the bomb came: The Nets traded Vince Carter to the Orlando Magic in July along with Ryan Anderson in exchange for Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee.
Out with the old, in with the new. That's the Nets' style these days. But a new owner — and one who would be the first first non-North American native ever to own an NBA team? That's another thing altogether.
In Mikhail Prokhorov, that's what the Nets are looking at.
At the age of 44, Prokhorov is one of the world's great self-made billionaires. He made his fortune in precious metals, becoming the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, and he's now the current chairman of Polyus Gold, the largest gold producer in Russia. In American currency, his net worth is estimated at $9.5 billion.
That's more than enough to build a basketball team.
In Harris, Lee, CDR and their two twin towers, the Nets already have a promising nucleus in place. But with the potential arrival of Prokhorov stateside to take over the reins, the future in New Jersey could be even brighter than expected.
If, that is, it's in New Jersey at all.
Prokhorov, who plans to invest nearly $200 million into purchasing the team, is the perfect agent for change in the Nets' organization. With Prokhorov's money, and with his competitive drive to turn the Nets around, the team just might be able to pick up and move to Brooklyn in the years ahead, thus solidifying its presence as a big-market powerhouse in the NBA.
Real estate developer Bruce Ratner, the team's current owner, has been dreaming of Brooklyn for years. He's facing a deadline of New Year's Eve to secure the $800 million in arena financing he needs to complete the move. If he gets it, the future of the Nets' franchise will be altered forever.
Prokhorov is the right man for the job. He can find the money to put the Nets on the map — the New York City map, that is.
Moving into the Big Apple would make the Nets major players not only economically, but on the floor as well. NBA stars love big, glamorous cities. Imagine the allure of the Brooklyn Nets to the game's biggest marquee names.
The free agent class of 2010 is looming large. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are a year away from hitting the open market, and the entire NBA is focused on landing the franchise player that will make an impact for the next decade.
The Nets have the inside track on LeBron, who is, of course, the ultimate prize. If the Nets end up in the hands of a big-money owner, moving to a big-time city, going after the big-time free agents, they'll be in good shape.
The Nets have been rebuilding for a while now. If all goes well for them over the course of the next year, they'll be fully built. Mikhail Prokhorov can make it all happen.