The state-of-the-art Barclays Center is the crown jewel of the new-look Brooklyn Nets franchise. However, what really makes an arena a great home court are the fans that fill it.
It's very difficult to tell what type of fan base a team will inherit after relocating. Of course, there is always some level of enthusiasm built in amongst the locals—a city wouldn't vie for an NBA team unless its residents were interested in having one. That's a big part of why most NBA relocations turn out to be successes.
Since 2001, three other NBA franchises have permanently relocated, excluding the Hornets' brief stint in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Grizzlies left Vancouver for Memphis in 2001, the Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte in 2002 and the Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.
The results have been middling for these franchises. Both the Grizzlies and Hornets continue to flounder in the bottom-10 in attendance, but both have ownership groups committed to keeping their teams in town, regardless of greener pastures. Though Oklahoma City has taken very well to the Thunder, there remain questions about whether the team would have been better off in Seattle, which is a significantly bigger media market.
What sets the Nets apart from these past movers is their destination. No franchise has moved up to a premier media market since 1984, when the San Diego Cilppers moved to Los Angeles. Brooklyn provides the Nets with a much greater pool of prospective fans to woo, which increases the odds of quickly generating an emotionally-invested base.
Brooklyn also comes packaged with a storied history and sense of community. It's the way things work in the boroughs of New York. There's the pride of being a New Yorker, but there's a greater sense of identity and home that comes from being from Brooklyn or the Bronx, and even more so for particular neighborhoods.
It has been 65 years since the Dodgers left for California; Brooklyn will jump at having a team of its own again.
Just as importantly, the Nets organization is coming in with a deep appreciation for its new home and what it means to represent Brooklyn. The first basketball game at the Barclays Center may have been just a preseason match against the Washington Wizards, but no one there thought it inconsequential.
With the fourth quarter winding down and the Wizards keeping it close, coach Avery Johnson looked down the bench and told Deron Williams to check in. Call it shortsighted to send your star point guard in for the final minutes of a meaningless game, but the Nets wanted to give the fans something to cheer for.
"I just thought it was important," Johnson said. "I thought it was nice that our fans would go home with a good feeling about our team."
A season after placing dead last in the league in attendance, the Nets value a devoted home crowd as much as any team in the league does. They are also ready to put a rejuvenated team on the court after a busy offseason.
GM Billy King made a flurry of moves this past summer, keeping Williams with the organization and making good on a promise to surround him with weapons. What was an unremarkable team last season has been rapidly rebranded as a postseason dark horse.
Williams is the team's true star, and he and Joe Johnson combine to form one of the league's most formidable guard combos. In the frontcourt, the Nets are rich in scorers (Brook Lopez, Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche when he feels like it) and bangers (Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans).
This team isn't great at anything, but it's very good across the board, and that will make them competitive against just about any type of opponent. Why does that matter in terms of home-court advantage? Well, don't underestimate how better play begets better fan support.
For proof, just look at the Miami Heat. When the Big Three first formed, the Heat improved their record to 58-24, American Airlines Arena started rocking and the team's attendance ranked fifth in the league. That was a jump of 2,000 from the year before, when Dwyane Wade and company went a respectable 47-35 but placed just 15th in attendance.
These new Nets won't be quite as electrifying as the defending world champions from Miami, but they'll put a charge into a fan base that is craving their arrival. When Brooklyn is in crunch time, the Barclays Center is going to get loud. Look for the impassioned crowds to swing some games their team's way.