The Brooklyn Nets were going to rebuild a community, establish a rivalry, create jobs and opportunities for the downtrodden, invoke the prideful yet painful memories of the famous baseball team that bounced to the left coast. Instead the only memories being brought up these days about the basketball team in Brooklyn are the comparisons to ineptness that was Isiah’s Knicks and the horrendous, dysfunctional and racist tenure of Donald Sterling’s Clippers.
The Russian billionaire has finally decided to cut the cord after six years of underachieving on the court and off the court. The revenue streams that were supposed to roll into the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn have yet to be founded. The powers that be are still paying off the huge construction bill and they are going to have to use some slick tax breaks to break even on the project.
Bruce Ratner has sold his interest in the team and the Barclays Center to the Russian billionaire in a move that screams cashing out than holding on for equity’s sake. Jay-Z got the real estate, store fronts, arena deals and court side seats that he craved. Hell even former coach and arguably the most important player in Nets history (think about that) Jason Kidd cashed out by selling his minority stake in the franchise to Jay before being named head coach.
While those moves have been going on up on the corporate level, the team that’s been on display on Atlantic Avenue at Barclay’s has been about as irrelevant as one could imagine for a marketing campaign six years ago that took over the tri-state area. Knicks fans were ready to jettison blue and orange for the classic urban appealing black and white color scheme. The Jay-Z Nets mentions in hit records only drove the point home that Brooklyn was going to be the future spot for basketball in the mecca that is New York City.
A funny thing happened on the way to taking over the mecca though. An array of bad trades, mortgaging first round picks for stars past their prime, a badly choreographed big 3 and over-paying for average skill level talent have gotten the Nets to the point where they are a franchise with no direction, fan base or level of interest in the sports world locally or nationally.
The Nets put their faith in Deron Williams back in 2010, a player that for the most part got a Hall of Fame coach in Jerry Sloan fired in Utah. Williams has added Avery Johnson, PJ Carlesimo and Jason Kidd to his belt during his lackluster tenure in Newark and Brooklyn. There was allegedly a plan to pair Williams with Dwight Howard and Joe Johnson to form a big 3 to compete with the Heat but when Dwight forced his way to the Lakers, they panicked and brought in aging vets Paul Pierce and Keven Garnett. The move gained some praise because it screamed of a win now approach; key for a franchise trying to show that things were going to be different, but to get those vets they gave up first rounder after first rounder and now they sit without a pick in the first round until 2019.
The two year window for Pierce and KG closed fairly quickly with no legitimate shot a competing with the likes of the Heat or the Pacers in the Eastern Conference. Pierce opted out and dipped to DC and that left KG all alone with Williams last year. It appeared as though Williams was already thinking about where he was going to play next season. Injuries and constant minute restriction hampered Williams and KG’s impact on the court so the Nets cut the cord on both in the off-season.
They could have let lumbering big man Brook Lopez leave after he decided to opt out of his contract but they chose to re-sign him for three more years. Add in the horrendous contract of 100 million dollar shooting guard Joe Johnson, a contract which they finally get off the books at the end of this season, and they have currently nothing on the roster that appeals to pending free agents. With 40 million in available cap space this summer, what player with any merit would want to come to a team with no alpha dog or even legit number two option. The future is bleak in Brooklyn. Jay-Z is only in the building when the best players around the league visit Barclays. The notoriety of the building has worn off. Music acts have been given huge discounts to play there instead of more established venues (S/O to MSG) and now the billionaire is throwing big money at Coach Cal over in Lexington to come and save the franchise.
The “Brooooklyn” chants are more pre-produced sound effects blasted in the arena than actual fans serenading the opposition. I’ve seen tons of Nets gear available at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for the low. Only the most hardcore Brooklyn native rocks the black and white in public. Now with the Knicks rebuilding with a reinvigorated Carmelo Anthony and number four overall pick Kristaps “Latvian Worldstar” Porzingis, the rivalry that was to take over mecca of basketball never even got off the ground.
All that’s left is the Russian, left now to pick up the pieces of the franchise that seems to be more lottery bound than the one he promised would win a championship within the first five years of his ownership.
In the end greed won out, politicians pockets were laced, gentrification moved out people in the community against their will, franchises ran up in there and set up shop all along Atlantic Avenue, celebs who were once against the construction of Barclays are now sitting in the front row (Hi Rosie Perez) and the cultural impact the team, the building and the people at the forefront of the campaign five to six years ago have quietly moved on to their next project.