From December 12th to opening night, I’ll be releasing a random essay on each team in the league. This post is about the New Jersey Nets. You can follow the series with the “2011-12 Team Previews” and “Zach Attacks” tags at the bottom of the page.
Everything I learned about Russians, I learned from Yakov Smirnoff, movies about Russians/Russian mafias and the Modern Warfare franchise of the Call of Duty video games.
In terms of how I assume Russian people analyze situations, it’s pretty safe to think that you just flip subject and the object of any situation and know that this is how things happen in Russia. If there was one thing to learn from Yakov Smirnoff, it was that. For example:
- In Russia, ball rebounds Brook Lopez.
- In Russia, Brooklyn moves to you.
- In Russia, players draft you.
- In Russia, Sasha Vujacic is shipped out of the country and never allowed to return unless you pay a heavy price.
Okay, that last one wasn’t Yakov, but I’m sure I got that from The Saint or Eastern Promises. Russian stereotypes are notorious for finding illegal ways to secure what they want. People disappear, people are strong-armed into giving away their money, and businesses are offered protection from the people they need to be protected from. It’s a vicious circle of mob mentalities. It just keeps going around and around. It never stops. That’s what makes it vicious – and a circle.
The worst part is it’s the only way to get ahead in a world of movie Russian stereotypes. The government is always in on the conspiracy, and there is nothing law enforcement can do to stop it because they’re in fear of not complying with the ruthless killers of the Russia mob. The people who occasionally stand up to this cycle of immoral business practices usually end up in a river somewhere. It would take a far more stubborn force to combat these practices.
It’s not enough to have Val Kilmer dressed in all kinds of disguises, trying to steal the formula for cold fusion while also stealing Elisabeth Shue’s heart. And Viggo Mortensen fighting naked in a bathhouse isn’t going to be enough to stop it. To keep these cinema stereotypes of Russian businessmen honest, you need a hero.
David Joel Stern.
In Soviet Russia, Mikhail Prokhorov would have threatened the families of every single star player in the league and forced them to join his team. He would have created a fantasy basketball team of talented marketing subjects, thrown them on the courts together and paid off the referees to give them mafia star calls that would make Tim Donaghy look like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar after his kid realized he couldn’t be Hideo Nomo.
Instead, we have something we like to call a Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NBA and it forces Prokhorov to play by the rules. He can’t just buy up any player he wants with his billions made from acid wash jeans and various metal products. There is a salary cap and this cap is something you can’t cut off with a switchblade or an ax. He can’t threaten owners with bodily harm and annoying threats of being taken to court, because Dan Gilbert was there first and already called firsties on those roles in the league.
In the NBA, the players sign you. You have to CONVINCE them to want to play for you. You don’t do it in New Jersey either. You have to go to the heart of Brooklyn, get a new arena built, pay off the state of New Jersey (don’t worry, it only takes a Bruce Springsteen concert DVD and some jorts… OH! Make them acid wash jorts!), and pitch to the players that Brooklyn is the new Manhattan. I understand you want LeBron James to sign with you and you have his rapping friend with the hot wife sitting next to you, but South Beach was around far before Jersey Shore got popular.
In the NBA, Travis Outlaw amnesties you.
Also, you have to have two owners agree to trades involving players. You don’t just get to liquor them up one night on absinthe and vodka, slip them a drug that makes them pass out, stage photos of them with hookers and then threaten to mail them to his parents and wife every week unless you get Dwight Howard for Brook Lopez and draft picks you don’t even own. You have to find a solution in which you give up more than your fans think you should for one of the best players in the league and take on Hedo Turkoglu’s contract in the process. If you can get the other owner desperate enough to accept such a deal then you have to submit the trade for “league approval.”
And you can’t bribe your way through this approval. You have to hope the commissioner throws his butcher’s knife at the spinning wheel in his office and hits approve trade, and David’s aim hasn’t been looking so hot lately.
In this world, you have to clear cap space, convince stars to want to come to your team, pay them an exorbitant amount of money, actually have those checks clear, and then convince them to stay. You have to hire guys like Billy King to get all of this solved for you too. You have to turn a lowly New Jersey Nets franchise into a virtual Mecca Mogul if you’re going to compete for the attention of Manhattan’s already established organization. And you have to do it with a goofy center who reads comic books, a great point guard whose sideburns look like the waves your jet ski leaves behind you, and by trying to re-sign people like the guy who married Lamar Odom’s sister-in-law for a couple of weeks on a dare.
Sorry Mikhail, but in this NBA, you either play by Stern’s rules or you find out the hard way where the bodies are hidden.
In the NBA, dynasty builds you.
And that’s everything I know about Russian people because of stereotypes in movies.