Last year, Kiwi NBA trailblazer Sean Marks took up the poisoned chalice as general manager of the struggling Brooklyn Nets, currently a league-worst nine wins, 44 losses for the 2016/17 season. Here's how the Nets ended up in such a mess.

Wearing a pressed, grey business shirt, Mikhail Prokhorov sat in front of a wooden cabinet displaying fine china, crystal glassware and a copper urn, and stared down the lens of the video camera.

For fans of the NBA's embattled New Jersey Nets franchise, it looked as though their new Russian billionaire owner had chosen his aunt's living room as the setting for his first public address since buying the team.

But if the room lacked grandeur, Prokhorov's message did not. Under his ownership, the team would bounce back from a league-worst 12-70 record to make the playoffs within one season.


A championship would follow in no longer than five years.

"I can convince the very best of the best that the Nets are the place they want to be," trumpeted Prokhorov, who made his fortune in precious metals.

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov introduces new general manager Sean Marks to the team before a game against the New York Knicks. Photo/Getty Images
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov introduces new general manager Sean Marks to the team before a game against the New York Knicks. Photo/Getty Images

The following day, one New Jersey publication described Prokhorov, whose net worth had been valued well north of $US10 billion, making him temporarily the richest man in a country full of abundantly wealthy tycoons, as "perhaps 2010's most influential rookie".

Sure, it wouldn't be as easy as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's early domination of salary cap-less English football, but with pockets as deep as Prokhorov's, surely the Nets were poised to become one of the NBA's premier franchises.

Prokhorov's commitment to move the team from Jersey into the New York borough of Brooklyn, with a shiny new stadium to boot, only added to the hype.

Rapper Jay-Z was brought in as a minority owner, the team dropped its red-and-navy blue colours for black and white, and celebrities who normally would have been courtside at Knicks games in Madison Square Garden were suddenly heading across town.

"We went with the idea that no money was to be spared," Prokhorov would later reveal of his approach. "Get high-value star players, whatever it takes.

"Bet on the quick win and throw everything we've got at it."

One of the NBA's lowest payrolls also soared to historic heights. General manager Billy King was told to start clearing out young, developing players like Derrick Favors in exchange for veteran stars, who could help the team win now.

If he had to give up precious future draft picks to get a deal done, so be it.

Point guard Deron Williams arrived first from the Utah Jazz in 2011, before King sent five players to the Atlanta Hawks for star shooting guard Joe Johnson the following year.

The new back court bumped the Nets to a 49-33 record in 2012/13, but after a first-round playoff defeat against the Chicago Bulls, Prokhorov upped the ante even more.

In a deal that's remembered as one of the worst in league history, the Nets mortgaged their future by sending a bounty of picks and players to Boston in exchange for ageing trio Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, who were five years removed from winning a championship with the Celtics.

But with a starting five of Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and emerging centre Brook Lopez - and new coach Jason Kidd - the perception was Brooklyn had a team to challenge for the championship Prokhorov had pledged. At an overall cost of $US102.3 million, Prokhorov hoped the squad was worth it.

But they never came close. The star-studded squad battled its way to an underwhelming 44-38 record in its first season together, before being bounced out of the second round of the playoffs by the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.

Pierce left for Washington after just one season and would later describe the experience as "horrible".

"It was just the guys' attitudes there," Pierce told "It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys.

"They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. I was looking around saying, 'What's this?'

"Kevin and I had to pick them up every day in practice. If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up - that team would have packed it in."

After Pierce's departure, it basically did. Garnett (Minnesota) and Williams (Dallas) departed the following year, while Johnson was waived in 2016, during a season the Nets would replace King as general manager and plummet to a 21-61 record.

For what he described, himself, as a "boatload" of money, Prokhorov had one playoff series win to show for it.

In an open letter to the NBA community, published by Yahoo Sports in February 2016, Prokhorov detailed eight key lessons he'd learnt in his six years as an NBA owner.

He bemoaned throwing money at players without an overarching strategy or team identity, failing to instil a strong culture and trading for players he believed weren't "made to play in Brooklyn".

"We had been told that you can't buy a championship," Prokhorov wrote. "Truer words were never spoken."

A year on from those refreshingly honest revelations, Prokhorov and the Nets are still counting the cost of their early recklessness.

This year's team has an NBA-worst 9-44 record and has lost 22 of its past 23 games.

Normally the promise of an early pick would offer some hope for the future, but the rebuilt Celtics have the rights to swap spots with the Nets in this year's draft - as well as owning their first round pick in 2018 - so the situation in Brooklyn is likely to remain a disaster for several more years.

But for all of his disappointment, there is a rather golden silver lining for Prokhorov. The value of NBA teams has skyrocketed since he purchased the Nets, thanks to the league's increasing popularity and a bumper TV rights deal.

Whatever he's lost paying excessive player salaries and luxury tax bills pales in comparison to the return he's realising on his investment.

The business of basketball may have proven beyond Prokhorov, but there's still enough cash in his bank account for plenty more fine china and crystal glassware.

2011/12 - $47.9 million (NBA rank: 28th) 22-44 (Missed playoffs)
2012/13 - $83.5 million (2nd) 49-33 (Lost 1st round)
2013/14 - $102.9 million (1st) 44-38 (Lost 2nd round)
2014/15 - $88.4 million (1st) 38-44 (Lost 1st round)
2015/16 - $80.5 million (12th) 21-61 (Missed playoffs)
2016/17 - $78.3 million (30th) 9-44 (NBA's worst record)