Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is listening to offers for the franchise, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Prokhorov owns 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of their home arena, Barclays Center, which opened before the 2012 season.
The rising value of NBA franchises, mostly notably the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, is reportedly what triggered Prokhorov to consider selling his stake in the team and the arena. Prokhorov purchased the Nets for $233 million in 2010.
Wojnarowski's report quotes a source that said Prokhorov didn't initiate offers and that, for now, he's only listening. So: how viable is this rumor?
Why this makes sense
Prokhorov is, first and foremost, a businessman. You don't become a billionaire like Prokhorov without an ability to judge when you're getting the most out of your investments. After watching small market franchises like the Milwaukee Bucks sell for $550 million and the Sacramento Kings sell for $534 million, Prokhorov could be sensing that now is the time to cash out.
If Prokhorov does sell, it isn't unreasonable to suspect he could draw an offer close to or surpassing the $2 billion Steve Ballmer just paid for the Clippers. Shelly Sterling reportedly had multiple offers north of $1 billion when she put the team up for sale. Given New York's market size, the new arena and the impending revenue from a new NBA TV deal, it's possible Prokhorov could field that type of offer.
Despite paying an NBA-record $190 million in salary and luxury tax this past season, the Nets only finished sixth in the Eastern Conference at 44-38. The core of the team is old, and many future draft picks were traded away to assemble it. It's certainly possible that Prokhorov could decide to take a gigantic offer if he believes the team is more trouble than it's worth.
Why this doesn't make sense
Just because the Clippers sold for $2 billion doesn't automatically mean the Nets would fetch a similar price. Brooklyn's unstable team future is one thing that could dissuade potential suitors from making a Godfather offer too similar to the one from Ballmer. A team with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin just might be more attractive than one with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
It's also uncertain if Prokhorov would sell before his stated goal of winning a championship in the first five years he owned the Nets. Brooklyn has not gone further than the second round of the playoffs in the four years he's owned the franchise. It might be too early to cut his losses.
If the rumor is that Prokhorov is listening to offers, well, sure. Any smart businessman would in the current climate around the NBA. It's still too early to say how serious his interest is in selling, though. Let's not think we've seen the last of Mikhail Prokhorov, NBA owner, just yet.