The Three Things The Nets Can Do To Survive in Brooklyn

By Jason Clinkscales / @asportsscribe

Bruce Ratner purchased a seemingly distressed property, dressed it up for staging purposes and sold a majority of it in record fashion within a few years.

Bruce Ratner essentially flipped the New Jersey Nets.

Despite this scribe being a Knicks fan, there’s always an eye towards what the Jersey Boys were doing. Much of it was sad, occasionally tragic, absurd, and often hilarious, but I always hoped that Nets fans would have their moment in the sun, in order to forge a true rivalry with the Knickerbockers.

The former majority owner of the Nets promised that and then some, but not for the fans that stuck by them when the former ABA franchise’s luck ran out in Long Island. Instead, Mikhail Prokohov (whom now-minority owner Ratner sold a bulk of the team to) and Ratner will use the Nets as the centerpiece of a mixed-use real estate development in Brooklyn, highlighted by the developing Barclays Center. It’s not only a big deal because it places a second NBA team in New York City, but it is Brooklyn’s ‘comeback’ in big-time pro sports.

We’re still months away from seeing Brooklyn Nets merchandise, as the Nets are playing out the string in Newark. However, there are a few things the Nets need to do once they arrive in The City’s most boisterous borough in order to not only make headlines, but to finally build a permanent identity.

Get over being in Brooklyn quickly.

Friends and colleagues may disown me for those words, branding me a hater from the Bronx & Harlem. It’s far from it.

Eleven years ago when the Cyclones arrived in Coney Island, it was billed as the return of professional sports to a place that still showed apparent scars of the Dodgers’ departure for Los Angeles in 1958. So what if this was a twice-relocated Single-A affiliate? So what if the population of the borough had drastically changed in forty-plus years since Dem Bums left?  In anticipation of Brooklyn, the Nets are still selling reminiscence of an era most residents never lived in.

Baseball teams long preceded the Nets in hyping up nostalgia. Consider the new stadium craze throughout the last 20-plus years. Owners sold the fan’s experience and neighborhood revitalization as much as they sold their hopes of the team, year-after-year. They built retro-style cathedrals like Camden Yards and climate-friendly confines such as Chase Field. However, as some teams packed their stadiums when contending for postseasons and championships, others (such as the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates) haven’t sniffed relevance since playing in their new homes. Eventually, nostalgia – or something like it – fades.

Brooklyn pride is great for a few weeks, but when the Nets are regularly blown out by elite teams from Miami, Dallas and Chicago, Brooklyn’s finest fans will rain down boos upon the likes the team never heard in New Jersey. And with the Knicks a bit closer to title contention than the Nets, the comparisons between the two teams will only grow louder. As the city of Baltimore can tell you, new homes in a historic downtown only guarantees better seats. The franchise still has to win (Ravens) or risk being an expensive afterthought (Orioles).

Let Billy King cook.

He’s been given the green light to remake the roster to the best of his ability, but general manager Billy King has been hamstrung less by the checkbook and more by reality. The reality is that free agents - now and forever - want to see management’s hand before they place their cards on the table. Outside of Orlando, the Dwight Howard saga has hovered over the Nets more than every other franchise in the league. He may come to Brooklyn (via Newark), or he may stay in Magic City. He might even be moved out west, making King’s search for a compliment to Deron Williams all the more difficult.

Oh, and there’re actually keeping Deron Williams.

For as much talk as there is about the NBA being a superstar-driven league, the teams that contend and win for years have superior supporting casts. To bring in Howard, there’s a significant chance that King will have to move any combination of these better-than-perceived players: Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and rookie, MarShon Brooks. Even then, there are still holes to be filled in the roster, and King will have to hearken back to his Allen Iverson-era 76ers days to complete the team with a motley crew very quickly before other contenders make their moves.

That’s just in the short run. There’s still the matter of a somewhat tenuous ownership group. Between Prokohov, who may actually become the president of Russia this year, a high-profile minority owner whose other business interests supersede that in his investment (Jay-Z), and Ratner, who made off quite handsomely in selling most of the team, it may not be a stretch to wonder how King’s plan in building the team could be altered.

Become Long Island’s team.

The New York Islanders will play an exhibition game at the Barclays Center this fall, ironically against the Nets’ soon-to-be (again) co-tenant, the New Jersey Devils. Mired in their own stadium quagmire, the rumors of an inevitable move to Brooklyn will get louder as those games get closer. It might actually behoove the Nets to convince the Islanders to leave Nassau County.

Despite hockey dominance in the early 1980s, the Islanders are to the Rangers are what the Nets are to the Knicks or the Mets are to the Yankees. Heck, they’re what the Clippers were to the Lakers until Blake Griffin and Chris Paul came on the scene. Owner Charles Wang may or may not be committed to Long Island, but instead of flirting with cities like Kansas City, Seattle and Las Vegas, Brooklyn can become his unexpected Shangri-la.

What most aren’t aware of outside of New York is that this is the same area where Walter O’Malley originally wanted to move the Dodgers. On top of the subway and access to several bridges and tunnels within The City, fans that left Brooklyn for the suburbs would be able to hop on the Long Island Railroad to see their team.

The Nets already figured this out and have spent the last two years making community efforts to attract fans within Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island long before their arrival. It could be a challenge, but Islanders would have the opportunity to make a larger dent in The City hoping to retain their faithful in the Island.

The truth is that the future Brooklyn Nets are going to struggle for a while. They very well might struggle for another thirty-five years, despite their new home. This is a franchise that has had brief periods of success couched under generations of mismanagement, disinterest and just plain bad luck. There are plenty of examples of franchises that have experienced the same small peaks and deep valleys, but a handful of them have been able overcome their history. We don’t know how the Nets will buck or follow the trend, but they’re giving themselves a decent shot by embracing Brooklyn.  However, what remains to be seen is how Brooklyn itself will embrace the Nets.

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