Nets owner meets with star guard to discuss future

691698.jpg

Nets owner meets with star guard to discuss future

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Deron Williams to discuss his future with the NBA team, but the Russian tycoon refused to say whether the All-Star guard gave any indication whether he would stay with the club after this season. Prokhorov said the two met Monday, adding both have a tremendous desire to win which is something the Nets did not do enough this season. They are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season. In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday after he toured his nearly completed Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a hard-hat wearing Prokhorov said the Nets are like his building, a work under construction. He said the arena will be one of the best in the world, and his team will win an NBA title when complete. The most immediate issue for Prokhorov's team is Williams, who is the Nets' lone star. He has the right to opt out of his contract after this season and he has said he will test the free-agent market. While he has not said he will leave the team, Williams wants to play for a winner, and the Nets have to make strides in that direction. "I think he wants to win, and he wants to be part of a great franchise," Prokhorov said. "We have the same view on this." When asked about his meeting with Prokhorov after the Nets dropped a 107-88 decision to Philadelphia, Williams was petulant. "Like I'm going to tell you," he said. The Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban, whom Prokhorov refers to as a friend, are said to be interested in Williams if he became a free agent. "Let the best man win," Prokhorov said of being challenged by Cuban. "If he wins, I will crush him in the kickboxing throw down." The comment drew a huge laugh from the roughly 100 members of the media who attended the news conference in the now dust-covered atrium of the new arena. The 46-year-old Prokhorov asked Nets' fans for patience, saying he was trying to find the right pieces to construct a champion, not just a playoff team. He said the Nets would have made the playoffs in this lockout-shortened season had it not been for injuries, the most significant being a broken foot that limited center Brook Lopez to five games. Prokhorov has not done well on the NBA free-agent market. He failed to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh two years ago and last season New Jersey could not reach a deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony before he was traded to the rival Knicks. The Nets also were in the hunt to acquire perennial All-Star Dwight Howard from Orlando before the recent trading deadline. However, the center opted to stay with the Magic for another year. Prokhorov said the Nets did meet with Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, but it was to discuss another one of his clients, Nene. Now, there is Williams. "Wait for the summer," Prokhorov said. "I'll tell you all the details. For the time being, it's top secret for us." Prokhorov did not see his team play in person until this past weekend, staying in Russia to run for president. He added he watches the team play 80 percent of its games and he is involved in all the day-to-day decisions. Despite a third-place finish to Vladimir Putin in the recent presidential election in Russia, Prokhorov said he still has political aspirations. He said the finish was a nice start and added that 20 percent of the Russian people want political change. "I met a lot of people, now I know much better for different aspects of Russian life," Prokhorov said. "They really deserve the changes. " Prokhorov also reached out to Nets fans living in New Jersey, asking them to continue to come and support the club as it heads to a new home after 35 years in the Garden State. "I know some people are very skeptical," he said. "But life is life, so I think we'll do our best to just persuade them to join us here." The 18,000-seat arena, which was built primarily for basketball, is scheduled to open on Sept. 28 with a concert by Jay-Z, a minority owner. The arena expects to have 220 events in its first year with concerts seating an extra 1,000 people. Developer Bruce Ratner, who has partnered in building the arena and bringing to Brooklyn its first major sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957, said the arena will open on time. He believes it will be ready for some dry runs 30 days before the opening. Prokhorov said the arena could be used for hockey, but there are no immediate plans to lure the Islanders from Long Island to Brooklyn.

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

It's the start of a new era at Illinois.

Lovie Smith has returned to the Land of Lincoln, the one-time head coach of the Bears taking over the reins of the Illini football program.

After several years of losing — and just four bowl appearances in the past 14 years — Illinois gave fans plenty of reason to be excited with this high-profile hire, giving the program instant credibility and a new feeling of optimism by bringing in an experienced NFL winner.

Smith met the media and ceremoniously joined the brotherhood of Big Ten coaches Tuesday during the second day of Big Ten Media Days and talked about his vision, recruiting in his old stomping grounds and his work to turn the Illini around.

CSNChicago.com sat down with Smith for a 1-on-1 interview Tuesday, and you can check out the interview in the video above.

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

About that heart-to-heart conversation Cubs executives absolutely needed to have with Aroldis Chapman over the phone before signing off on a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees: The Cuban closer had been sleeping on Monday before getting on the call and didn’t remember anything specific about what chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein said in terms of off-the-field expectations.

At least that’s what Chapman expressed through coach/translator Henry Blanco during an awkward welcome-to-Chicago media session in a U.S. Cellular Field dugout before Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, forcing the Cubs into damage-control mode with a player who began this season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Even allowing for the language barrier, this was a completely tone-deaf performance, because reporters asked Chapman about that phone conversation at least six times, getting versions of “It’s been a long day” and “I just got here” and how the Cubs expect him to help this team win the World Series.

“My confidence right now is coming from within,” Chapman said when asked about facing the backlash. “Everything is going to be fine. I’m just going to be the best person I can be. I understand what I went through. And I’m a better person now.”

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and reportedly fired multiple gunshots inside his South Florida home during that domestic dispute last October, though the Broward County State Attorney’s Office ultimately did not press criminal charges.

Sitting on the same bench the day before, Epstein had strenuously explained the organization’s rationale, answering questions for more than 33 minutes and recognizing that putting Chapman in a Cubs uniform would provoke all sorts of conflicting emotions.

This was a bad look for a franchise that always talks about doing things the right way, being extremely thorough and believing in character. Blanco sat next to Chapman in a difficult spot, as a quality-assurance coach who played 16 years in the big leagues but doesn’t have any professional training as an interpreter.

“It appears that there was something lost in translation,” Epstein said, “or (Aroldis) didn’t have the recollection immediately.”

Chapman is 28 years old and a four-time All-Star lefty who has been in The Show since 2010. Epstein said Chapman felt “nervous” and directed reporters to the one-on-one pregame interview he did later in Spanish with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, who had also been in the middle of the group scrum.

“I’ve grown tremendously from that time,” Chapman said, according to an ESPN transcript. “I’m with my girlfriend still, with the family, and I feel that I have absolutely changed as a person. I’m working to be a better person.

“(Now I remember) because they just asked me in the previous press conference what the owners asked me. One of the things they did ask me was about being a better person and being a better neighbor to people. And that’s something that I think that I am now, much more so.”

The Cubs used Alex Suarez, an assistant director in player development and international scouting, as their translator during the MLB-approved call, which also included Barry Praver, Chapman’s agent, who also showed up on the South Side for an introduction that went completely off the scripted talking points.

“(The phone call) happened and it was real,” Epstein said. “We talked to him about the incident and made sure that statement (released to the media on Monday) reflected his real feelings.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training. He said extremely clearly: ‘Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training. It’s important that you hear it. And I need to from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard with their behavior off the field.’

“That’s exactly what he said: ‘We need to know that you can meet that standard.’ And Aroldis said: ‘I understand. Absolutely, I can.’”

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant knew exactly who the Cubs were facing Tuesday night in the second game of the Crosstown series.

In a way, Bryant had this game circled on the schedule. 

White Sox starter James Shields was on the mound (as a member of the San Diego Padres) as the starting pitcher for Bryant's big-league debut in April 2015.

Bryant finished that day at Wrigley 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

In the clubhouse before Tuesday's game, a reporter assumed Bryant did not want to face Shields, but the Cubs All-Star third baseman immediately corrected that statement saying he was excited to get another shot at Shields.

Bryant was penciled into the Cubs' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday after banging his head on Tyler Saladino's knee diving into second base in the ninth inning of Monday's game. 

Bryant was a little shaken up after that play, but stayed in the game for the bottom half of the inning.

"Anything with the head is scary," Bryant said. "I was fortunate enough that it wasn't serious. But after that, I felt fine."

For Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon figured it'd be best to give Bryant a half-day off.

"His head took the brunt of it initially, but he also said he hit his hand on the ground," Maddon said.

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Maddon originially had Bryant in Tuesday's lineup at third base, but thought better of it and changed his mind and put Tommy La Stella at the hot corner.

Bryant entered play Tuesday 0-for-6 career against Shields, including four strikeouts. He also whiffed in his first two at-bats Tuesday night.

Bryant admitted DH'ing is a little bit different for him when he's used to the National League game.

"It'd be nice to get out and have fun with it a little bit," Bryant said. "Some of these American League games, it's good for some of us to get a DH here and there.

"It's a little [mental adjustment]. It's tough for us because we don't play DH a lot, so you don't really have anybody to ask here how to prepare for a day like that. But I've done it a couple times. We'll see."