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November 07, 2012

Brooklyn Gives Hope


The Brooklyn Nets began their inaugural season over the weekend with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors in the brand spanking new Barclays Center. They are the first major sports team to call Brooklyn home since the Dodgers left in 1957. Moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn gives the franchise a unique opportunity to lure back some of the fans they left in Long Island in the summer of 1977, and hopefully pick up many new fans.

The Nets have struggled the most of the three major sports leagues and their NY area franchises. Playing in an isolated locale in the swamps of New Jersey didn't help the team develop an identity. They suffered through multiple ownerships with varying degrees of commitment over the years, and played in the shadow of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.

The Jason Kidd era brought a period of respectability to the franchise with back-to-back NBA Finals runs. But once Kidd left, the franchise again struggled with its relevancy.

Brooklyn seems like a perfect fit, with its renaissance as a hipster mecca. Add to that an impressive, new arena and the presence of limited partner, Jay-Z as the promotional face of the franchise and the Nets already have more of an identity than they developed in their 30-plus years in New Jersey.

The Nets will never be the Knicks, but they put together a nice offseason to make a statement in year number one.

The key to the entire franchise was keeping Deron Williams. Not only is he a great point guard, but also he's a great leader for the franchise; clean-cut, marketable, and stays out of trouble. Had the Nets lost him to the Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn might have started off as a bust.

The trade for Joe Johnson was a post-Dwight Howard attempt to bring in another star alongside Williams. Unfortunately, Johnson is a not an elite player. He's more of a volume scorer than a player that can help the Nets gets through the Miami Heat.

Gerald Wallace was resigned for $40 million over four years. The Nets won't like the final couple years of that deal.

Brook Lopez was also resigned for four years and $60 million. He'll need to prove he's tougher and a better rebounder to be a legitimate center on a championship contender.

The good news about all the pieces surrounding Deron Williams is that D-Will will make each of them better. There's no point guard in the league I'd rather have running the team. As a pass-first, defensive oriented player, Williams gives the Nets instant credibility to compete with the Knicks.

The Nets aren't title contenders, but they don't have to be. This team needs to dig out of its recent slump and be a team that can earn a playoff spot.

The Knicks and Nets opener against each other was postponed to November 26 because of Hurricane Sandy. When these two square off, it'll be the old guard versus the new. In basketball, the Knicks have owned the region, but that Monday night could be the first step toward changing that.

Will basketball fans under 30 begin drawing towards the new faces in town? Those fans don't remember Red Holzman and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. To them, Walt Frazier is the TV guy with goofy suits who acts in "Just for Men" commercials and rhymes phrases during Knick games. However, with a world-class arena and some top-flight talent, the Brooklyn Nets have a buzz they could never generate in New Jersey. Hopefully, they generate the kind of success that will cause East End residents to make the trip to see some good, old-fashioned hoops.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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