On the web, a ‘Nyet’ gain for Prokhorov

On the web, a ‘Nyet’ gain for Prokhorov

Who says there’s no “I” in team?

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov put a cyber-stamp on his New Jersey Nets this week, launching a “team” website in his native tongue — but the site also heavily promotes the owner and his business ventures back in the Motherland.

Forget about b-ballers Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, the lead image on the site is a glamour shot of Irina Pavlova, president of Onexim Sports and Entertainment, a subsidiary of Prokhorov’s $25-billion holding company Onexim.

Clicking the second story on the site brings up a picture of Prokhorov among his players, looking more like the coach than the owner.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov

Prokhorov said on Friday that the site would help Russian-speaking fans “fully experience” Nets basketball.

“I’m glad we’re reaching out to our global fan base in a personalized way,” said Prokhorov, who became the team’s principal owner in May. “We want Russian speakers from New Jersey to New York to Moscow to see the Nets as their home team, and a Russian language website is an excellent way to further that goal.”

The fledgling website offers articles, interviews, schedule photos and video and ticket information. It does not reveal the current NBA standings, where the Nets are 6–15, good enough for the third-worst record in the league.

The current on-court struggles follow last season’s debacle, when the Nets lost a franchise high 70 games — but on the Russian-language website, the Nets are a league leader (albeit as one of the “most-socially savvy teams” in culling new fans through Facebook and Twitter.

The website of the New Jersey Nets is basically a basketball site. The Russian-language version is basically a corporate website for owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

In the borough’s southern Brooklyn Russian enclaves, basketball fans said the website is hardly a slam-dunk.

“I love basketball, but I won’t go on the site just because the team owner is Russian,” said Raisa Chernina, a Sheepshead Bay resident who heads the Be Proud Foundation, a Russian-American advocacy group.

Besides, she said, the mega-wealthy team owner practically “speaks a different language” than the vast majority of Russians.

“He is in heaven, and I am on earth,” Chernina said. “I don’t know what our Russian community will get from him.”

And a Russian-language website is not something Brooklyn’s Russians immigrants even need, said Lena Makhnin, executive director of Brighton Beach Business Improvement District.

“Many people who live in this country speak and understand English,” she said. “It’s more of a promotion for his team and his company outside of the United States.”

Former Moscow resident Arthur Arutyunov observed that the site appears to reflect the Russian desire to use any tool available to broaden a fan base (indeed, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev often sends out Tweets and blog posts).

“Russians are deeply involved in the social network,” he said.

As such, a Russian-language website can’t be a bad thing for a team that is gearing up for its Brooklyn move for the 2012-2013 season. The cross-town rivals, the New York Knicks, are already in a marketing battle with the Nets to win the hearts of borough fans, posting big billboards demanding that Brooklynites “represent” for “the original ball team of the Empire State.”

Perhaps, but the Knicks have only one official website — in English.