Posts Tagged ‘Russian Mark Cuban’

By Phil Bausk

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.”- Richard Nixon

It is kind of weird to think that the late Richard Nixon’s words referring to Communism bare such an eerie resemblance to the current events of the National Basketball Association and its 2011 Trade Deadline.

Over the past couple days, both the Knicks and the Nets have made Rasputia (First Norbit reference!!) type splashes at this year’s deadline. The Knicks were first to dive in by trading a sizable amount of their roster (Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and a few picks and cash) for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, and others. Usually after such a big splash, there are ripple affects, and these were expected to occur throughout the league over the next few days. Instead, the Nets made an even bigger splash, sending Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, 2 first round picks, and cash to the Utah Jazz for disgruntled PG Deron Williams, among other smaller pieces.

While both of these deals are good for each franchises on an individual level, it is hard to ignore the idea that the Knicks and Nets are going to now be in direct competition with one another, not only on the court (maybe a year or two down the road), but also in the war rooms, fighting for players to help fill their respective rosters. This is all assuming that Deron Williams agrees to some sort of an extension, keeping him in NJ/Brooklyn for the next few years.

While the Knicks are helped by their location and the team’s history, it has been let down over the past decade by management, and rumblings that Isaiah Thomas was involved with the Carmelo Anthony trade only further proves that perhaps the culture in the front office, while shifting, isn’t completely out of  the woods quite yet.  On the other hand, the Nets have Mikhail Prokhorov, as Bill Simmons calls him, the “Russian Mark Cuban,” or as I will refer to him from now on, RMC.

RMC has struggled in his first full year as the NJ Nets owner. He was unable to lure any big name name free agents this summer, though The Akron Scammer said his presentation was one of the best he saw. Along with the Scammer, RMC whiffed on Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, and ended up paying Travis “Where’s my GED” Outlaw $7 mil. a year over 5 seasons, perhaps one of the worst contracts in the league. He was then unable to get Carmelo from the Nuggets, even though his Nets had the sexiest package to offer to them.

This has a  remarkable parallel to the first half of the Cold War. While post-World War II Europe was being both reprimanded and reassembled, Russia and The United States proposed different approaches on how to go about this process. Russia wanted to spread its Communist influence, while the U.S. wanted to rebuild the democratic governments in Europe. This caused much tension between both parties, resulting in roughly a decade of speculation, with many skirmishes along the way, including the Koren War and the Warsaw Pact, which were significant moments, but in the long run, were ultimately unsuccessful, much like the Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow signings.

It was at this point that RMC duped us all and pulled his own version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by swooping in out of nowhere and acquiring Deron Williams. By doing this he has moved his artillery in position, much like Khrushchev did in Cuba, and is pointing his ammo right at the heart of Manhattan. The next question is whether RMC will push the proverbial button, by signing a Dwight Howard type, or if he’ll emulate Khrushchev again, and become unsuccessful not only in signing another free agent, but in retaining Deron Williams.

It would be harder pressed to make James Dolan and Co. into looking like John F. Kennedy and any other U.S. presidents, but if I am going into this analogy, I really don’t have much of a choice. Dolan and GM Donnie Walsh have done a good job putting NYC basketball back on the map. Much like the American presidents, they have done well, but still have their critics, though I don’t think anyone is going to be gunned down at a state school over the ‘Melo trade. Their next task is to bring in one more piece to finalize the NBA trend of having 3 All-Stars to fill out a starting lineup, and banking on someone else to step up and play well (There will never be another Rajon Rondo, or at least a man who can capture my heart like he has).

As of right now, RMC and his Nets have the upper hand in managerial/political decision making, but the Knicks, much like America at the time, has a better product on the court. They have history on their side as the NBA superpower, and will use whatever resources it may take to keep it that way. We all know how the Cold War turned out, as things in Soviet Russia dissolved, and America was back on top of the world. Does RMC have what it takes to make this Cold War end differently? Or is he going to be remembered as that crazy Russian owner whose money meant nothing in a league where the salary cap is going to be at an all-time low?

Only time can really tell us how this NBA feud is going to conclude, but one thing is for sure, there is a renewed hatred of those over in Jersey, and you can be the feeling is mutual. Better yet, does this Cold War turn into a Civil War when the Nets make their way over to Brooklyn, and start referring to themselves as the Brooklyn New Yorkers.

There is so much left to be answered, and so much time for it all to be answered in. This tension between both clubs is going to last for a few years, and it is going to feel like a few decades. Perhaps Russia would still be the Soviet Union if RMC were around 50 years ago.