Trade talk between the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic regarding a megadeal that would send Dwight Howard to Brooklyn has reportedly broken down once again, but the two teams can rekindle negotiations at any time.
Brooklyn remains Howard's preferred destination, and if the most dominant big man in the league joins New York City's newest team plenty of Knicks' fans will follow.
The Nets' move to Brooklyn became official on April 30th. With a new arena, two new logos and an all-star backcourt, they managed to wash away the stench of 35 dreadful years in New Jersey in a matter of weeks.
Nets' minority owner Jay-Z provided the relocated franchise with instant street cred in his native Brooklyn. He also utilized his marketing genius to develop the team's new black and white color scheme and logos while generating buzz for what will be known as “The Vault at Barclays Center,” 11 high-end luxury suites on the event level of the arena where New York’s social elite can take in a game.
The rap mogul bragged in his song Empire State of Mind that he "can make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can." So far, he has done the same for the Brooklyn Nets.
Black and white baseball caps, jerseys and t-shirts sporting a shield with "Nets" inscribed above a basketball emblazoned with a "B" have become a trendy new look in the hot summer streets of NYC. Local sports columns once reserved for the Knicks are now covering the latest Nets trade rumors.
Factor in the Knicks' futility over the past decade, their incompetent owner James Dolan and the prime location of the Barclays Center, and many Knicks' fans are considering trading in their jerseys for the white and black.
Justin Orgel, a resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn was a long-time Knicks' fan who recently switched his allegiance. He said the proximity of the Barclays center to his apartment had "almost everything to do with it," though conceded that the Knicks' ineptitude over the past several years was a factor as well.
"I've been a fan for 30 years, which I think is a good enough run to not be considered a traitor," Orgel said.
That's not to say that the majority of Knicks' fans will be turning their backs on Madison Square Garden. Joe DiPalo of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn said, "I can see Barclays from the end of my street and I'm intrigued enough that I'll check out some games, but nothing changes. I'm a Knicks guy."
Think of the two teams and their fan bases like political parties. The republican and democratic parties both have hard-core members who would never change sides, but there are several centrists in each party, as well as a vast number of undecided voters, whose support is up for grabs.
The same applies to Knicks and Nets' fans. Young fans in particular whose allegiance to a specific team has not been fortified by years of joy and pain are in play.
For some New Yorkers who aren't deeply connected to either team, especially Brooklynites, the deciding factor in who to support in the Knicks-Nets rivalry will be location.
However, the greatest allure for the overwhelming majority of undecided sports fans is success. Ultimately, the novelty of the new logos, colors and arena will wear off and all the bling in Jay-Z's "vault" won't draw a crowd to the Barclays Center if the Nets put a poor product on the court.
So far, general manager Billy King has done a great job of upgrading the Nets roster during the offseason. He convinced all-star point guard Deron Williams to re-sign with the team, reportedly locked up Brook Lopez and acquired sharp-shooter Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.
Yet, even if King adds a few more solid players via free agency, the Nets will be just another playoff team. They will probably finish behind the Knicks in the Atlantic Division standings and will be fortunate to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Dwight Howard is a game-changer. If the Nets acquire him they will vault to the number two team in the Eastern Conference and be equipped to give the defending-champion Miami Heat a run for their money over the next few years.
The Nets' fan base would multiply over night.
Sure, Howard has turned off many people by the way he has handled his pending free agency, but while many potential Nets fans may not like him personally they'll come around when they see his impact on the court.
Consider how many LeBron James Heat jerseys have been sold, and young basketball fans throughout the world that have jumped on the Heat bandwagon over the past two years despite all of the animosity towards King James after "The Decision."
Orgel, for one, said that the acquisition of Howard wouldn't affect his decision to root for the Nets. But when asked if he would switch back to the Knicks if they're the better team this season, he laughed and said, "Yeah."
With Dwight Howard, the Nets would be the best team in New York. And the most popular.