Updated: August 21, 2012, 2:13 AM ET
By Matt Ehalt | Special to ESPNNewYork.com
Mikhail Prokhorov is spicing up the blossoming Knicks-Nets rivalry.
The Brooklyn Nets owner described New York Knicks owner James Dolan as “that little man” to a New York Magazine writer in a recently published story. The absentee Russian billionaire is reported to be 6-foot-8, while the reclusive Dolan is not nearly as tall as his counterpart.
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“Prokhorov told me back in December that he plans on attending a quarter of the regular-season games and ‘all the playoff ones.’ He also made sure that I heard him call Dolan ‘that little man,’” writes the article’s author, Will Leitch.
“The Nets frequently note that a minimum of 2,000 seats a game will cost $15 or less, at least for the first season (in the Barclays Center). Still, it’s clear that the Nets did not move to Brooklyn to be Pepsi to Jim Dolan’s Coke: They want to be Veuve Clicquot.”
The Knicks and Nets have been engaging in a publicity war as both teams ready to battle it out for Big Apple supremacy this upcoming season. The squads, playing in New York City together for the first time this season, will meet in both teams’ season openers on Nov. 1 at the brand new Barclays Center.
In Prokhorov’s introductory press conference in 2010, he said that “We will turn Knicks fans into Nets fans.” Later that year, a billboard was erected right across from the Knicks’ home, Madison Square Garden, with Prokhorov and minority owner, rapper Jay-Z, below “the blueprint for greatness.”
“That billboard is the anchor to an aggressive marketing platform for key transit hubs from Manhattan to Newark,” Nets CEO Brett Yormark said to The Record (N.J.) in July 2010.
“It’s a pretty aggressive campaign around free agency. It’s one of the biggest advertising spaces in the city. What better place to make a statement.”
Both teams also actively pursued trades for forward Carmelo Anthony, with the Knicks ultimately acquiring the Nuggets’ superstar at the 2011 trade deadline. The Nets responded with their own blockbuster by dealing for All-Star point guard Deron Williams. The birth of “Linsanity” also occurred earlier this year in a Knicks-Nets game when Jeremy Lin, now with the Rockets, scored 25 points to lead the Knicks to a victory over New Jersey.
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As the Nets officially transferred from New Jersey to Brooklyn after last season, and now prepare to open in their new arena, they have been aggressively promoting their brand. After the team re-signed Williams and acquired guard Joe Johnson, part of a roster retool to help the Nets get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, Johnson said that the Nets were the best team in New York City. The Knicks have been to the playoffs each of the last two years.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, didn’t seem to agree.
“I heard a little bit, but I think it’s foolish,” Chandler told reporters in July. “The Nets are just coming together and I think it’s pointless for them to talk to us about anything. First they need to establish themselves. It’s a lot of talk, almost the same thing as us playing against the Dream Team, it can’t happen right now. I will let it speak for itself the first time we play them.”
Prokhorov’s comments came in a story detailing the Barclays Center coming to Brooklyn and the Nets’ role in it all.
Matt Ehalt is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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