DURHAM, N.C. — Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t see his team in person very often, but when he does, he leaves an impression.
Prokhorov showed up at the Brooklyn Nets training camp on Wednesday at Duke University with a bag full of volleyballs, tennis balls and other props.
The Russian billionaire grabbed a microphone and proceeded to introduce them to Tescao, a Tibetan martial arts. Prokhorov would demonstrate an exercise then one-by-one — mainly the rookies and those still on their first contract prodded by the veterans — would attempt to do the same.
“It was great for him to come out and interact with us, a lot of guys haven’t got a chance to meet him in person,” guard Joe Johnson said. “Some of the things that he was demonstrating out there, as you can see, as athletes we couldn’t even do. It was tough.”
Prokhorov said he has been using the exercises for a “minimum two hours” every day for the past five-plus years. That’s why it won’t exactly become a foundation of the Nets strength and conditioning program. But the team got some much needed levity from his appearance.
“He’s a very interesting guy, he probably should be doing that commercial, ‘I don’t normally drink beer, but when I do…’” said Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who was seeing Prokhorov for only the second time in person. “He’s one of those guys around the world who has varied sorts of interest.”
Prokhorov reiterated that owning the Nets remained one of those interests, although his five-year plan ended without any banners being raised.
The roster would suggest Brooklyn is back to needing a bridge year before a major breakthrough is possible. Prokhorov isn’t ready to concede just yet.
“If the stars align[ed] correctly we might have seen better results, but we’re still committed,” Prokhorov said. “We have a young and more athletic team. We have great flexibility to go on, still we have a very strong core: Brook [Lopez], Thaddeus [Young], Joe and then of course Jarrett Jack.”
Prokhorov once considered guard Deron Williams an important part of that core. But in the biggest move of Brooklyn’s offseason, it negotiated a buyout of Williams’ last two years.
While Prokhorov wouldn’t elaborate on the move, he accepted the responsibility of it.
“I discussed all the player moves with Billy [King, the Nets general manager] and signed off on them personally.”
For the first time under Prokhorov’s tenure, Brooklyn avoided getting hit with an exorbitant luxury tax. The Nets paid a record $90 million in 2014 while Prokhorov was still pushing a “win-now” agenda.
The Nets remained below the luxury tax threshold, but Prokhorov intimated that it wasn’t because they’re thinking of going big in the free agent market next season.
“I don’t want us to be in the mindset of focusing on next summer,” said Prokhorov, again stating his desire to be present for at least 25 percent of the Nets games this season. “I think we have a great opportunity to have a good result this year in the East. Our task for next season is that we’ll surprise our doubters.”