New Jersey Nets: Jersey Boys Bound for Brooklyn
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It was just another night in Newark, New Jersey. It was March 7th, 2012, and the Nets where playing and counting down the games in their temporary home of the Prudential Center before they make their Barclays move across town. All eyes would be on the Brooklyn Nets if it wasn't for what was happening across town in the heart of Manhattan.
Jeremy Lin was causing a New-York-Knick-and-basketball revolution in Madison Square Garden, truly making the World's Most Famous Arena that again. From the banners to the t-shirts and jersey sales, more attention was being turned away from the Knicks' New York neighbours in Jersey. Even the last year of an NBA team couldn't overshine a banner month for the city of N.Y.C. in Knicktown.
Still on this mid-month day Blake Griffin and his L.A. Clippers marched into town to the beat and rhythm of Chris Paul's Lob Angeles renaissance. See, Clippertown was having a little revolution themselves, led by the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason and the biggest sophomore (sort of) sensation ever, leading the layup line and dunking the NBA back into post-lockout prominence.
Years ago a Clipper/Nets game would be an empty-seated, cross-off-the-calender event, but trains from the city where full as the fans flooded in the gates led by owner and hip-hop legend Jay-Z and almost a whole offensive-line of Superbowl-winning New York Giants.
Most came to see the Blake Griffin Show, and he duked and dunked his way through 48 minutes. Everyone, however, got one of the last and best games from the New Jersey Nets. The point-guard battle of Chris Paul and N.J.'s Deron Williams was merely a side story to the excitement and enthusiasm that punctuated the night.
From Gerald Green's jersey-tugging dunking that raised cheers from the crowd all the way to the rafters of Julius Erving's retired jersey, to the buzzer, Clipper beating, 0.2 second winning shot from L.A. boy and former Laker Jordan Farmer, this was clearly the Jersey Boys' night.
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The Nets may have worn the classic blue-and-red starred New York throwbacks in preparation that night, but it was all Jersey after the game horn echoed out.
The players made their town proud, like Springsteen or Jon Stewart, and the fans themselves showed just how behind their team they truly are. The current team motto is "Jersey Strong/Brooklyn Ready" but it's clear these great Newark people aren't ready to give up on their team just yet.
From the good Doctor J to the tragically-short era of Drazen Petrovic (rest peacefully), this team has had some great players and great years. Although currently this team is a far cry from the back-to-back, Eastern Champion, new millennium days of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin (now a Clipper and on that night greeted by proud cheers) and Richard Jefferson, there is potential for prominence once they make it to Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn-hip status of owner Jay-Z and the fortune of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov will be enough pull to land all sorts of All-Star talent and money in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn, bringing sports-related excitement to the borough for the first time since before the baseball Dodgers relocated to L.A.
Still, it's top point guard Deron Williams that will lead the charge, becoming the pied piper of Brooklyn. Expect many stars to flock to the great city of N.Y. for a franchise that has lured greats like Kidd and Vince Carter. New York loves a classic Point Guard, from Kenny Anderson to Stephon Marbury (they've all played here), and just like Jason Kidd in the early 2000's, there is a D-Will and a way bringing the city game to B.K.
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With Farmer behind him and young talent like the big and bold Brook Lopez and the dunking dynamics of Gerald Green, this team has plenty to keep their new fanbase interested, aside from the glimpses of Shawn Carter courtside.
Shelden, a whole host of Williams, DeShawn Stevenson and Kris Humpries help round out this team, but really this team needs a couple of wing players to complement Sheldon's passes like Jefferson and Martin did Kidd or even a big man and big talent to take this team out of the graveyards and into contention.
Dwight Howard would help and so would a decent free-agent market and draft class. Some kids who recently cut nets down in Kentucky could help repair the Nets in New Jersey too. From rumors to college champions, future players in Brooklyn could help write a storied chapter in this franchise's basketball legacy and one that could really reinvigorate and intensify the Knicks rivalry and the New York game.
That's next season, though.
Sure, the Nets' season is all about over now as they head deeper into the world's most popular tourist destination. Now New York, New York may take some shine off Jersey like the Knicks but in reality, New Jersey is a great place that still-even for just under a week-holds a team that has produced some great basketball memories.
35 years of play from the battlegrounds to the Meadowlands. From favourites like Kendall Gill and Kerry Kittles, greats like Buck Williams and Derrick Coleman to Hall of Famers like Rick Barry and Nate Archibald. They won big in the ABA, and from the high socks to the Julius Erving-Afro they helped define it.
Sure, the closest they came to National Basketball championship accreditation in the association was being swept back-to-back by the Lakers twice, but they still stood proud and prominent with strength in a weak East, which has since changed the tide and coast of basketball dominance.
So before a wrecking ball tears through the New Jersey Nets and local boy Bruce Springsteen sends them off, we should spare a thought of support for a basketball city that will soon join the Seattle Supersonics and maybe the Sacramento Kings in the past and purgatory.
Brooklyn is going to be a big and brilliant new direction for the Nets, but even when the good times roll we shouldn't forget that it's the heart and soul of New Jersey that will get them there.
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