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Understated and underappreciated, these Nets really are Brooklyn’s team

for The Brooklyn Paper

The Nets aren’t going to win a New York popularity contest anytime soon. And, really, that’s the whole point.

Brooklyn star Deron Williams raised some eyebrows last week when he spoke of the team’s stature in its home city.

“You can say we’ve been the JV at times,” Williams told reporters. “I think it definitely would mean a lot to clinch the division title. To the fans, to the organization. I think it would be huge. There’s no doubt about that.”

Winning the Atlantic Division, of course, implies the Nets would oust the league-leading Manhattan Knicks. And during Brooklyn’s odyssey of a road trip, the team has an opportunity to do just that.

But D-Will’s use of the term “JV” — to compare teams that split their season series 2-2 — smacks of a broader connotation, to a belief that the Nets must prove they are not simply the lesser of New York City’s two franchises.

Let’s be clear: winning a division title won’t erase years of blind Knicks fandom from the blood of many New York basketball lovers.

Sure, the Knicks management has done just about everything imaginable over the past decade to stand in the way of building a good team, but most casual hoops fans aren’t that attuned.

Half the Knicks roster might be using walkers next year, but things are good now, and that makes people happy — and commands media attention.

You can see a similar scenario playing out in Los Angeles, where for years the Los Angeles Clippers were the laughingstock of the league. Now that LA’s second team is among the NBA’s best and the Lakers are fighting for a playoff spot, does this mean the Clippers are the talk of the town?

Anyone who has turned their radio dial to hours of Lakers sports talk in Southern California knows the answer.

Moreover, Brooklyn’s half-court style hardly matches that of the Clippers’ exciting “Lob City.” What you’re getting at the Barclays Center every night is basketball for diehards, not a high-flying spectacle.

But isn’t that just how it should be?

A team that wears black-and-white and plays unflashy basketball? A team that could be the jewel of the city, but is paid no mind? A team removed, thankfully, from the bright lights and overinflated egos of Manhattan?

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

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Jamie from Flatbush says:
Last year they were Newark's team, a few years earlier they were East Rutherford's team, and sometime in the near future maybe they'll be Las Vegas's team.

I sure hope these carpetbaggers aren't symbolic of anything about Brooklyn. The only diehards at Barclays Center are New Jerseyans who continue to follow their team despite being abandoned.
March 22, 2013, 9:12 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
May I ask what really makes them Brooklyn's team? Don't be surprised if the majority of the borough is still Knicks fans. If there are any Nets fans in Brooklyn, they are probably just part of a bandwagon for the most part, but not true fans. Also, I highly doubt that most Knicks fans just jumped ship to the Nets when most will probably never do that no matter how many losing seasons they had. In reality, if the Nets fail to make it past the quarterfinals or go down quietly in the semifinals, they will just be seen as just the same team in a different uniform. Just having the brand alone won't be enough to help them, and fan bases take a while to form, which is not something one get overnight. I have to agree with what Jamie says because this is true, and at least the Nets still have their loyal fans from where a fan base already exists from. If Brooklyn was really for the Nets, then where were they won the team made back to back NBA Finals appearances in the early 2000's? If they weren't rooting for them then, they are not rooting for them now. More importantly, many do see the arena as a product of eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare, and that just won't go away just because they are there now.
March 22, 2013, 4:08 pm
matt from hackettstown says:
i think you two are wrong respectively.. brooklyn has a good fanbase. yes u r right about earning respect and having to win first. and yes im from nw nj so im not there in brooklyn. but i feel alot more excitement coming from people all over the state and area of the brooklyn nets then i've ever seen from the new jersey nets. theres more pep in peoples step with ths new team.
March 26, 2013, 1:32 am

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