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Home / Sports / 2019 NBA Playoffs: Nets fandom has its New York moment

2019 NBA Playoffs: Nets fandom has its New York moment

In a pub in Pacific Park in downtown Brooklyn, in a sort of spot with spotless floors and tulip glasses adorned with pink delirious elephants, a group of black and white men sit in front of a row of beer taps. On one wall is a massive elk head with taxidermy. Framed sports memorabilia are bolted to one another. It's quiet. There are only seven tables in the room, five of which are empty. The televisions on the wall show a smirkless Joel Embiid inviting for Game 2 of the first round playoff series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers, which is scheduled to start in about 30 minutes.

The tip is at 8 clock midnight, and as the minutes pass, the fans keep running. The morale at the bar is rising rapidly: just two days ago, the Nets ̵

1; the no. 6 seeds in the Eastern Conference, a team that had not won a play-off spot until the last weekend of the regular season – managed to win 111-102 for the mighty Post-Process Sixers. Brooklyn was recently an NBA Lachstock; now it has a way to plausibly enter the second round. "I want to go to Philly for Game 5," says one of the men. "But I can not because we will sweep."

When Jimmy Butler of Jimmy Butler scores the first points of the game, there are no open tables anymore, though there is plenty of room for movement. It is not hot, but loud. In the first quarter, almost 100 miles from the Wells Fargo Center, the fans sing here in defense. They call Ben Simmons a bum. DeMarre Carroll strikes back 3 hands to break an early Nets lead and rebounds off the walls. A man in a Jahlil Okafor jersey asks why I do not cheer. I tell him that I'm not a Nets fan. "As fans of Nets, we can not compare the stubbornness," he replies. "There is not enough of us for that."

The nets are one of the feel-good stories of this NBA season. In the autumn there was some optimism that they could break into the playoffs as part of a weak Eastern Conference, but not much in the face of their 28-54 record of 2017/18. And yet they finished 42-40 and saw guard D & # 39; Angelo Russell blossom into an All-Star. They benefited from the sharp shooting of 3-point winner Joe Harris. They rebounded from unlikely deficits, such as a 25-point hole in the fourth quarter, to overthrow the kings in March. They have gained national recognition for being young and entertaining, and the hype surrounding them peaked after a victory in the series against the Sixers. But they also pose a local puzzle: How many New Yorkers cheer for this team? How important is Brooklyn's surprising emergence of networks?

The scene in the pub provides at least a partial answer. Most people in the room are members of the Brooklyn Brigade, the football-style support group located in Section 114 of the Barclays Center for every Nets home game. The brigade, or what would later become the brigade, met for the first time in November 2012 because Bobby Edemeka did not know where to find other Nets fans.

Edemeka, the president of the group, had no roots for the Nets The franchise company announced plans to move to New Jersey from the district after the 2011/12 season. When Edemeka heard that the team had settled around the corner where he grew up, he grabbed season tickets, started trekking to Newark for games, and became a regular at Nets Daily the self-service nation of Nets partner site.

In the fall of 2012, the Nets moved to the Barclays Center, a green-covered wood-and-glass mothership of an arena on Atlantic Avenue. The presentation was immaculate. going to a Nets game looked and, frankly, still looks like a visit in the future. Fans enter the arena under a huge, halo-like surveillance screen, walk through the glass doors and the ticket lines, and enter a venue that feels like they're swallowing you. However, in the opening season of the networks, the new arena did not distract the participants from a series of problems. One of them was that the games felt sterile. If there was a passionate Nets fan base, nobody could hear it.

So Edemeka started an experiment: He posted in a Nets Daily commentary section that he had bought 20 additional tickets for a preseason game and that he wanted 20 Nets Diehards to join him. Many users thought this was a complicated scam, but 20 people appeared. "There was no dominant geography, you had Long Island, you had Queens," says Edemeka. "I would say more than just geography – if they were a Mets fan or a Jets fan, they happened to be Nets fans."

Edemeka repeated the process two to three times in the 2012/13 season. He examined the section for the fans who put the most energy into the games and invited them to return again and again. At the end of this season, the group had given its name. By the end of 2013/14, the Nets had created a permanent place for the brigade in section 114.

The lean years that followed may have thinned the ranks of the Nets fandom, but given the noise in the pub during the first half of Monday's Game 2, the enthusiasm among the most devoted parts of the base does not seem to have diminished. The nets stick with Philly through the first two quarters, pausing just one. "Rihanna did not want you!" Screams a fan embiid through the screen as the teams move through the tunnels.

Then begins the third quarter. The Sixers begin to score as they wish. Embiid gets what he wants in the mail. Simmons cuts unhindered on the tire. Boban Marjanovic can not be missing from the midrange. Meanwhile, Russell loses the touch of his icicle swimmers as he holds them up over Boban's outstretched arms. At the end of the period, the Sixers scored 51 points, scoring the most points in an NBA postseason quarter. Philly's lead has increased to 29, ending in a 145-123 goal. A member of the brigade puts his arm around me.

"Real fans," he says, "stay and take their donkey whoopins."

  Caris LeVert and Ed Davis

Caris LeVert and Ed Davis
] Photo by Drew Hallowell / Getty Images

When the nets left New Jersey, there was no knack about their departure. There was no fun in the State Chamber of Commerce; There were no proxy wars led by opportunistic business people, as it left the Sonics 2008 in 2008. Even the fans of Nets or whatever else was left of them were not particularly excited about the development.

The last years of the team in Jersey collapsed. In the last three seasons of the nets before the change, they won a total of [1945906] 58 games and mingled by four different head coaches. Her leader in winning stocks in her last jersey season was Kris Humphries. During these three seasons, they set off between home games at the Izod Center in East Rutherford and the Prudential Center in Newark and tried to fill the seats at both locations. A promo is designed to bring somebody and everyone to the games: giveaways with reversible jerseys with a Nets player on one side and an opposing star on the other side. "They would have a jersey that would have on one side [Courtney Lee] and on the other side Kobe," says Devin Kharpertian, who joined the Nets for the TrueHoop network of ESPN and YES during the team's move and in the first years of his Teams discussed Brooklyn I checked; There was actually a double LeBron jersey by James and Jarvis Hayes.

Part of the problem was that the networks never built a strong connection to any part of the region. Since its inception in 1967 as a New Jersey American ABA never succeeded, after its debut season it moved to Long Island, changed its name to New York Nets and played in the small-seated Long Island Arena with 6,500 seats. A year later, it moved to the even smaller island garden and three years later moved to the larger Nassau Coliseum, a popular arena where the NHL islanders still find their best visitors. The nets were still in a pre-merger world, far from the city center and barely on TV, when Julius Erving, an up-and-coming electrician, led two ABA titles.

The success did not last long. The fusion of the NBA ABA took place 1976 and changed immediately the trajectory of the nets. "When they teamed up with the NBA, they had to pay the NBA millions of dollars, just like the other ABA franchises," says Frank Guridy, professor of sports and urban history at Columbia University. "They had to sell Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers and then moved to the suburbs of New Jersey. … And in New Jersey, they play in the Meadowlands, which is basically nowhere in an arena next to Giants Stadium, and there's no fanbase there. "

In no time, no matter what momentum the Nets had generated Whatever folklore on Long Island could have existed, was gone. One can imagine the nets with the fan base of the islanders, a lovable, rough group that was built in the outskirts and suburbs. Instead, they had to start all over again. "East Rutherford is not a place," says Guridy. "It is not even a city."

The Nets struggled to find a following in East Rutherford in the early decades. In the first 25 seasons of the NBA, they made it only once from the opening round of the playoffs. In the early 2000s, teams led by Jason Kidd made two consecutive trips to the finals before forfeiting the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and the Robinson-Duncan-Spurs. In 2004, the team exchanged for the high-flying Vince Carter to enlarge its title window, but never managed to reach the conference finals again.

In 2009, the team began to refuel and gave up whatever his fans were. It had established itself near a home. When the Nets left their fans, the fans largely left the Nets. "The words" New Jersey "came from the street uniforms of the team and you will not find them anywhere in the arena, even the abbreviation is gone: if you watch a Nets game on TV – and please, do not do that – will be the score something like "DALLAS 110, NETS 82". "David Roth wrote for The Awl in 2010." The relationship of the people of New Jersey to the idea of ​​being from Jersey is a complicated thing, but suffice it to say that most nationals would consider this a pretty outrageous tail. "

It was the end of an era everyone was prepared for, "says Kharpertian. "I think about it, in parallel with the Sacramento Kings, where there was a chance they would move to Seattle, and this huge horde of fans came together to make a documentary and protest, and there was this huge uprising to that keep kings in Sacramento. There was no such thing in New Jersey. Like nothing. Nobody wanted them to stay.

  Spencer Dinwiddie and Larry Nance Jr.

Spencer Dinwiddie and Larry Nance Jr.
Photo by Al Bello / Getty Images

It is possible that no one is in New York York also wanted the nets. If you live in or in the city, you've probably heard: there's always been a basketball team in New York City, and Kevin Durant and Zion Williamson are coming soon. Maybe also Kyrie Irving.

The Knicks were here the whole time. Its origins date back to the 1840s, so long that the results of the postseason could be listed as "Eliminated in Eastern Division Round Robin". Since their inception, they have played in the same arena, Madison Square Garden, the most famous sports venue. The events there have gained mythical significance: Willis Reed plays in the 7th game of the finals of 1970 through a torn thigh muscle or Larry Johnson swings in 1997 at Alonzo Mourning. When Charles Oakley was kicked out of MSG after a confrontation with security forces in 2017 For the former big man of the team there was a lot of local support. When Patrick Ewing was not interviewed for the team's vacant head coaching team in 2018, some Knicks fans were angry: He's one of us. Why do not you at least call him?

"I am working on a book about the teams of the 90s, and people my age and older still have a love affair with them because they saw New York as standing for many people," says Chris Herring, a writer for FiveThirtyEight Beaten on Knicks from 2012 to 2016 at The Wall Street Journal A city where people work hard, and it may not be the most beautiful, but you always find a way to get things done. "

New York has always talked about how it sees itself, and one of the things that it considers itself safe is a basketball city. The Knicks teams of the 70s, 80s and 90s generally agreed with the city's image, but these times are long gone. Ewing does not train the Knicks, but Georgetown. Oakley's relationship with the franchise is chilly. The team has rarely played the playoffs in the last 20 seasons, and when it does, it's not far advanced. The ticket prices are high and the games are mostly populated by business people and fans outside the city. The owner of the team, James Dolan, is reviled. He blocks fans telling him to sell the MSG team and answers angry fan mail by calling the fans alcoholics and telling them to sign up for the networks.

For the last 20 years, the Knicks have been a team of disasters and failed overnight stays, mortgaging the future to bring in a superstar, and then selling a superstar for future visions. Nevertheless, they have the city undisputed. "I think, in a sense [Knicks fans]it separates the idea that the team has to be good to love them," says Herring. "I think you sometimes love people who, if you think about how they treated you, might not love them as much as you do, and I think in the same way you could describe many kinky fans. "

Originally the nets had a similar strategy by leaping to Brooklyn and trying to steal the city with a flash from the Knicks. They had the new arena, the new colors and branding, and Jay-Z, who was sitting at the court. In 2013, they stepped up their efforts by sending Celtics three future first-round picks as part of a package deal to acquire veteran stars Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. This short-sighted trade would hinder the franchise for years to come, but now it has finally settled and reset.

This is no longer one of New York's basketball rich-fast systems. As a result of this trade, with no foreseeable path for rapid recovery, the networks forged a long-term plan. They hired Sean Marks, a young manager who had previously held a senior position in the Spurs front office, as general manager. They brought the plan to Kenny Atkinson, an energetic Hawks assistant. Both have stayed long for three seasons and have helped pull the team out of the abyss. Perhaps more importantly, they have given this franchise a sense of comfort and continuity that it has long lacked. They have given the Nets an identity.

"Personally, I feel most connected to this iteration of Brooklyn networks when I go to every other iteration through their seven seasons in Brooklyn," says Edemeka. "There is this sentence that you may have heard," In Mark's We Trust. "I think that's real, unlike in the old days, when things were a bit slapdash and shot from the hip. that the Front Office has a plan. "

The plan has begun to bear fruit and has paved the way for the nets to become the anti-Knicks, all close to New York's basketball – Knicks fans , Nets fans, journalists and more – reflect similar sentiments as they speculate about the potential for the rise of Brooklyn – signing a superstar would be great, but establishing a robust and sustainable – what the Knicks are not – That's what could really make the New York City Nets draw. "If the nets are actually written down instead of just putting everything on a star player, that's the difference," says Herring. it does not matter if you want to give or not, always looking for a kind of savior. Go out and get Carmelo, get Phil Jackson, go out and get LeBron. And now it will be Durant and Kyrie. … To fix the culture is important.

The nets have been good in the past, but they have never strung together like a handful of good seasons, and they have never done so in a place where they have developed a lasting bond with their community. That seems to be the goal now: The Nets' approach to becoming part of the fabric of the district was to start from below in Brooklyn neighborhoods, Mandy Gutmann, the team's vice president of communications, wrote an email in which For example, he referred to Nets' efforts with the Food Bank for New York City to provide food to federal employees during the January government deadlock.

The Knicks' mission this summer is to turn into an immediate contender. The mission for the nets is to stay on course and bring players like Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie closer to the fans. Although they still have a long way to go – with all their new moves, Brooklyn was the last place in the NBA this season – the team finally has a sense of hope. "I think it's different here in Brooklyn," says Ian Begley, who has been treating the Knicks for ESPN.com since 2010. "They have another seal of approval with the New York sports fan."

New York will always be unmistakable Be a Knicks city. But with Brooklyn continuing its upward trend, the fandom of Nets does not always seem so rare. While the team finds out from the first round, it still feels like a long-range shot that the shot even exists, is a sign that the franchise may have gained a foothold and a track in a city that already has a marquee Team has. "As an adult, you would see these commercials with blind taste tests of the different types of peanut butter where they cover the label and ask somebody which peanut butter tastes better," says Edemeka. "I feel like you made an NBA version of it and took the labels in New York from the respective teams – if you covered up the Knicks label and the Nets label – of course I'm biased, but I think the nets would do better at virtually every metric than the kinks. "

Back in the pub it gets late. The Sixers starters are all on the bench. The brigade is still firing every bucket, but their enthusiasm fades. Fans come from all over the city – one works on Coney Island and has to be out of the house at 4:30 – and the beginning of the next day is up. They talk about Thursday and Game 3. Everything will be fine. We have a home court now. We did what we had to do.

Finally, they shake hands and say goodbye. Outside, the temperature has dropped. It is cold and windy. The Barclays Center glows in the center of everything. Above it the sky is black with white spots.

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