Nets Arena May Not Grow in Brooklyn

The New Jersey Americans were one of the teams that started the ABA in 1967, only to move east a year later. They traded in the Teaneck Armory for the Long Island Arena in Commack and eventually put together a strong club that won two championships in the rival league.

Constantly playing second fiddle to the corporate New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, the Nets have been overlooked. Even during this period when they have excelled and the Knicks have struggled. They have had trouble with attendance at the Continental Airlines Arena, with a spattering of empty seats being seen even during playoff games.

When Bruce Ratner purchased the team, he had full intentions to eventually move to Brooklyn. He was looking to build a basketball arena ironically enough at the same location where Walter O'Malley had visions for a new Ebbett's Field in the 1950s. The hold-up at that time was a wholesale meat distributor that served New York City was in place there and the politicians did not want to uproot them. They called O'Malley's bluff and lost. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, and the meat distributor? They ended up moving from their Downtown Brooklyn location a year later.

No such problems this time around with the food industry. But there is the issue with relocating businesses and tenants currently there. On October 26th, a group filed a federal lawsuit charging that the seizure of their property under eminent domain was unconstitutional. The suit named not only Ratner, but New York State Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well.

What the outcome will be remains to be seen. If the Nets do not move to the borough of churches, then the Garden State may have to house them for a while longer. The New Jersey Devils are building a new arena in Newark, which will the leave the Nets as the lone occupant of the Continental Airlines building.

It's obvious that the Nets will have to deal with the small crowds and second-class citizen status if they remain in Jersey. During sales negotiations in 2004, Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, was looking to purchase the team and bring them back to the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. That is the same place where they had their best run as an organization. Julius "Dr. J" Erving led the Nets to two titles in the last three seasons of the ABA.

Will the Nets ever have a true "home-field advantage" playing in New Jersey? Debatable at best. They do have their core of faithful fans, but not enough to fill the building on any given night. They have tried to make it a more exciting time with a mascot and a dance team. Superstar players and reaching the NBA Finals are usually ingredients for success at the gate. But the Nets have not been able to use that to their advantage.

Is the answer moving to the city? Initially, there would be some excitement and curiosity concerning the new arena. But in the long run, this will always be a Knicks town. The Nets will have to win a NBA championship to buck that trend.

The New Jersey Devils have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL and have enjoyed champagne from the Stanley Cup on more than one occasion. But there's something missing when your victory parade is in a parking lot compared to the Canyon of Heroes. Hence, the same problem the Nets would have even if they went all the way while playing in New Jersey.

For what it's worth, the Nets have a team that must be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. Their "big three," consisting of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson, can carry the team on any given night. Nenad Krstic showed a nice touch from the outside for a big man last season and should improve this year.

The Nets may have had the strongest collective draft than any other team in the NBA. They chose two UConn players back-to-back in the first round. Marcus Williams fell to them at number 22, and expects to be the main backup to Kidd at point guard. Big man Josh Boone was picked next and suffered a shoulder injury during mini-camp and is expected to miss the next two months. When he returns, he should be a spark off the bench at the four or the five.

The Nets will most likely have a good season, win their division, and get passed the first or second round of the playoffs. All the while under the radar screen. The headlines will read more of the long season the Knicks are experiencing and the Isiah Thomas job watch. Just another season for the Nets of New Jersey.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site