It’s time to make it official. The Nets' season is over. And so is their time in New Jersey.
The countdown to Brooklyn began as soon as Deron Williams put the finishing touches on his 57-point outburst against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats.
That is the memory for New Jersey fans to savor from the Nets' final season in the Garden State. That is going to be their last highlight moment as residents of Newark.
Unfortunately, it didn’t even happen in Brick City.
The playoffs, which were still a slim possibility a week ago, are officially out for this year. The Nets don’t have a chance without center Brook Lopez, who is going to miss three weeks of action with a sprained ankle. And, to be honest, they didn’t have a chance with him. It was fun to dream, though.
So let’s pack up the office supplies, throw the balls into a ball bag and start thinking about what’s next.
The Barclays Center.
Another lottery pick.
The first three are givens. The Nets are moving to Brooklyn next year no matter what happens the rest of this season and will bring with them one of the worst returning records in the league and one of the top picks in the draft.
The last three are anything but given. Deron Williams sounds like he wants to stay in a (Brooklyn) Nets uniform and Dwight Howard sounds like he wants to be in the bright lights of the Big Apple, too. But them signing extensions (Williams) or new contracts (Howard) are the keys to the final piece of the puzzle (fan excitement).
If they don’t get the first two components, forget about the third.
It seems like most people believe there will be fan excitement and commitment when the Nets move to Brooklyn no matter what. However, I submit to you that no Brooklyn-born fan alive right now has ever suffered through the kind of season the Nets are currently dealing with and won't react well when it happens.
Let’s not forget that the last time Brooklyn had a home team to root for was in 1957—segregation was still enforced, John F. Kennedy was still alive and no one had stepped foot on the moon.
That’s a long time ago. And I wonder if the current crop of hipsters who dwell in Brooklyn will support a team that wins only 18 games a year.
I don’t believe so.
Sure, the home opener will be sold out no matter what and so will plenty of the early games in the season simply because there are enough corporations in NYC that will want to buy seats to show off in front of clients.
However, real Brooklynites—the ones who will fill the stadium day-to-day, pay for the cheep seats and concessions—have never suffered a losing season. They’ve never had to pay to watch bad basketball. They haven’t shelled out $150 per person per game to watch a team struggle through a season.
If the Nets don’t get D-Will and D-Howard, they will next year.
So let’s look to the future. Let’s think about what the Nets have in store, but don’t think that just because they’re moving to a new stadium in a new city that it won’t be the same ol' Nets. Because unless they sign the two big names above, it will be. And Brooklyn fans will cheer for that team as much as New Jersey fans cheer for this one.
Which is to say, limitedly.