“…because it’s The Nets.”
That’s the most common response I would get throughout this season when I expressed optimism about The Nets getting Dwight Howard. Come to think of it, it’s basically the same response I’d get after explaining why Deron Williams would be wise to re-sign with the team. No matter how many solid points I would make, supported by facts and quotes, they would always be dismissed instantly by fans of other teams. They would not use logic against me though. The versatile “…because it’s The Nets.” counter was all anyone needed in their minds. Perhaps they were right.
That is really all you need to know about the culture The Nets have developed over the course of their 35 year NBA history. The people of New Jersey never truly embraced this team. Not even during the Kidd-era, when the team made back-to-back trips to The NBA Finals. I remember when I was a kid back in 1992, and my Dad moved us from South Jersey (Sixers territory) to North Jersey, he asked me if I wanted to go to a Nets game and I had no idea that New Jersey even had a team. It’s been a long and mostly depressing road since then. Something is starting to feel different now. I can sense it, and I think players around the league are starting to sense it too.
When word first spread that Dwight Howard had requested a trade to the New Jersey Nets, it took me a little while to really convince myself I wasn’t dreaming. I mean we’re talking about Superman here, the second best player in the league and far and away the best big man in the game. The next best big after him is debatable, but it’s not close. I can assure you that. Why did he want to come here? Then it was reported that he informed The Lakers he would not re-sign with them if traded there. He was adamant about where he wanted to go. I doubt any other superstar has ever publicly asked to be traded to New Jersey, but to also choose Jersey over the storied Los Angeles Lakers? That’s unheard of. Is it really so ludicrous though? When you really weigh all the pros and cons it becomes a bit clearer why Dwight would make such a bold request when he didn’t even have a russian supervillain-type behind him with a pistol held to his back.
The market alone is reason enough to convince any doubters that The Nets will have a whole new identity once they cross the bridge and settle into their new digs.With 3 million Brooklynites all around them and a plethora of public transportation options, getting people to come to games shouldn’t be too difficult anymore. It doesn’t hurt that the new arena just so happens to be the most luxurious one in the NBA. A true work of art. Deron Williams has even called it a “Baller’s Paradise”.
There are some who think The Nets are not going to have an easy time transforming Knicks fans into Nets fans. They don’t think the people of Brooklyn will just flock into the Barclay’s Center and fill up the seats on a nightly basis. I’m not so sure about that though. People from Brooklyn have a lot of pride. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find people with more pride about their city than these folks. When was the last time you heard someone from Brooklyn answer “New york” when asked where they’re from? The correct answer is “Never”. They are not from “New York”, they are from “Brooklyn”. This is why I think people from Brooklyn are going to have a very hard time rooting against a team with the word “Brooklyn” embroidered across the front of their uniforms.
Players are saying all the right things about the team’s future prospects in the media. Gerald Wallace, who the Nets acquired at the deadline via a trade with Portland, has been a real game changer. Avery Johnson has nothing but praise for the man they call “Crash”.
“He gives us a lot of size and athleticism at the 3 spot. He forces us not to have to overuse some of our guys on the bench.” says Johnson.
Wallace had a sit down meeting with owner Mikhail Prokhorov while he was in town last week. He sounded very upbeat about the future of the organization afterwards. “Yeah, I met with him. It went great.He’s a great guy, loves the game of basketball, wants to be competitive. He wants to do great things for the team and he’ll be well appreciated by the organization,” Wallace said. “The biggest thing for this team is going to be training camp — keeping guys accustomed to having that real training camp,” Wallace said. “Coming back next year, we’re able to get adjusted to being together.” Sounds like he plans on sticking around, doesn’t it?
As for Deron Williams’ future with The Nets? We still do not know, but DeShawn Stevenson helped instill a dash of optimism for Nets Nation recently. As Deron’s closest friend on the team, he would know better than most what the All-Star point guard is thinking. Stevenson revealed that the plan is for him and Williams to train together in East Rutherford,NJ during the offseason, even though both will become free agents. It gives time for Williams to see the Barclays Center constructed to near completion before making his final decision that will change the course of the franchise for the next several years.
Gerald Green is also excited about the team’s future in Brooklyn and says there is no place else he would rather be. He even went as far as to say in an interview with Fred Kerber of the New York Post that he would be willing to give The Nets a hometown discount.
“Most definitely I would,” Green said without pause when asked if he would take less money to sign with Brooklyn. “I’m about loyalty and this team was the first team to pick me up for the year. They gave me an opportunity. They gave me a shot. Look what they’re doing. Our record doesn’t speak for itself. We’re a lot better team than our record says.”
So many positive vibes, it is almost hard to believe we’re talking about The Nets here. On April 30th The Nets will unveil the team’s new logo and colors. According to Brett Yormark, the new “identity” will be ”a great departure from what we see today” and will be a “trans-formative move.” Let’s hope this transformative move also describes The Nets culture from here on out. Brooklyn, stand up.