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Prokhorov says GM search “not bad” so far

Nets Owner Witnesses Miracle Finish as Johnson Sinks Nuggets

February 9, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov enjoyed a rare moment of exhilaration at Barclays Center Monday night after Joe Johnson hit a miraculous game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against the visiting Denver Nuggets. AP Photo
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In dire need of a new direction for his struggling franchise, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov enjoyed a remembrance of things past Monday night at Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Prokhorov, in town to conduct interviews for his next general manager, was treated to a buzzer-beating, off-balance 3-pointer by veteran sharp-shooter Joe Johnson as the Nets pulled out a miraculous 105-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets in front of 13,043 fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

“Joe Cool, as usual,” Prokhorov reportedly told ESPN on his way out of the arena, citing Johnson’s penchant for game-winning shots, a trademark of Brooklyn’s first three seasons here, but a rare sight during this disastrous fourth campaign in our fair borough.

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With the Nets (14-39) down by two points following Kenneth Faried’s running jumper with 1.3 seconds to go, Johnson, one of the NBA’s most notable late-game assassins, caught Markel Brown’s inbound pass, dribbled, turned and lofted a shot that banked in at the buzzer to provide those in attendance with a much-needed moment of exhilaration.

“Obviously, we’ve had a tough season,” admitted Johnson, who scored 12 points and dished out eight assists. “But to get some excitement like that out of the game was exciting. I’m happy for the fans.”

Even Prokhorov, stoic throughout the contest, jumped up with arms raised in triumph as the Nets celebrated their first back-to-back home wins since Dec. 8-10.

“I didn’t have time to take a dribble, square up and shoot, it was all in one motion, one dribble off one leg, shot and in,” said Johnson, who was mobbed by happy teammates after connecting on his league-best seventh buzzer-beating game-winner in the past decade.

“He made a heck of a shot,” Interim Nets head coach Tony Brown said of Johnson. “A one-legged bank shot from three, I’m sure it’ll be on some highlight reels tonight.”

The Nets improved to 4-12 since Prokhorov fired former head coach Lionel Hollins and “reassigned” longtime general manager Billy King back on Jan. 10, leaving the Russian billionaire and his management team to seek out Brooklyn’s new player personnel director.

Candidates reportedly include Denver Assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, who was in the building Monday night with the visiting Nuggets, as well as Bryan Colangelo, Danny Ferry and others that Prokhorov has yet to meet with.

“It’s not bad,” Prokhorov intimated when asked how the GM search was going.

Neither was the game, which featured six ties and six lead changes, the last of which came on Johnson’s vintage walk-off.

“We had a feeling that this was our game,” said Brook Lopez, who finished with 16 points.

Thaddeus Young led Brooklyn with 20 points and Brown added a career-best 19 off the bench for the Nets, who will try to make it three wins in a row at Barclays on Wednesday night against Memphis.

“I’m playing aggressive right now,” said Brown. “I’m playing with a lot of confidence. That’s what I’m going to continue to do. [My teammates] are doing a great job of finding me and continuing to get me open shots.”

Another bright spot for Brooklyn was the NBA debut of 2015-16 first-round draft pick Chris McCullough, who had been sidelined by a severe knee injury suffered during his final season at Syracuse.

The 6-foot-10 forward finished with two points, two boards, one blocked shot and a steal in just under 11 minutes of action.

“It was good being on the court,” McCullough said. “Just to finally hear my name called, it felt great.”

It must have felt even better to contribute to Brooklyn’s most rousing victory of an otherwise forgettable season.

Nothing But Net: After hosting the Grizzlies Wednesday, the Nets will take on the arch rival Knicks at Barclays Center on Friday night. New York fired head coach Derek Fisher Monday, replacing him with interim Kurt Rambis as team president Phil Jackson conducts his own coaching search, while the Nets will doubtlessly be doing the same once the GM issue is resolved. It’s unlikely, however, that the two teams will be competing for the same candidates as Jackson remains steadfast in his belief that his next coach will also try to employ his legendary “triangle offense.” If Jackson backs off that requirement, the Nets and Knicks could be staging an off-the-court battle to lure the top head coaching candidates to the Big Apple. Stay tuned.


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