It's time to talk about the National Basketball Association NETS squad and the proposed move to DownTown Brooklyn (as I watch the Jets playoff game vs. the Bengals).
I'm not going to give you the complete history here or do what's already been done. Here is the brief background history:
Bruce Ratner, a real estate developer, is no stranger to Brooklyn. He is a major reason for the changing skyline of downtown Brooklyn. At the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, (the same location O'Malley wanted to build a new Ebbets Field for the Dodgers but was stonewalled by NYC Tzar of everything at the time, Robert Moses), is the rail yard and junction for the Long Island Railroad Brooklyn terminal Station. It is over this property Bruce Ratner has grand designs for retail, residential and office towers. Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz and the MTA (metropolitan transit authority, which owned the property) all seemed in agreement of this snarky little deal for the MTA selling the property to Ratner for below market value. Again, I don't want to re-invent the wheel here. He needed insane financing to the tune of over $1 billion to get this done. He was guaranteed, eventually was, and still is facing opposition because of the use of NYC/NYS Eminent Domain laws. This was all while the economy was still steaming ahead and everyone had dreams of the future being "the Jetsons" like. The economy tanked. Ratners financing plan and court battles with eminent domain gave him more problems than a math book.
In the face of all this he was facing firm deadlines for tax break purposes from the State of NY. All along, his hook to get all this done was to buy the Nets, build an arena as part of this grand project and move the Nets to Brooklyn. If things went according to original plans, they'd be starting play here next season. Obviously things are turning out differently for Mr. Ratner. As part of this hook, Jay-Z would be a small share holder of the team. This isn't about Jay-Z's motivations for wanting to participate. Obviously he's from a near-by neighborhood and I'm sure his reasons are sound business minded moves. I'm concentrating on the bigger picture.
Ratner was forced to alter his scale and design several times. It got dark for him and the project looked in jeopardy.
Enter Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire from Russia. He played basketball as a youth in school and owns a share of the Russian team CSKA MOSCOW. He's passionate about basketball. He's serious about becoming the majority owner of the Nets. He's willing to cut Ratner the check. He gets a team and arena and Ratner gets his money to finance his complex of multiple towers. Recently, the Ratner financing bonds sale when extremely well. NYS passed down their decision on eminent domain and gave Ratner the go ahead with the project. FINALLY. Things are looking OK for a change. OR are they?
Pick up today's paper and look at the records and standings. The Nets are last in the division with a 3-32 record. That's less than one win for every ten they play. Ouch!
Ratner, fresh from buying the team, was faced with the Kenyon Martin problem of free agency. Not only was he a popular Net, he was good! He was my favorite Nets' player. Well, Ratner cheap-ed out on a deal and Kenyon went to Denver. That's when we knew for sure the basketball operations of this team were furthest from his grand scheme. He just wanted his fantasy land built. The Nets were a way of getting it done. There was an unexpected Net's fan-base backlash. The Nets had to get VINCANITY Vince Carter to mute fan INSANITY and displeasure. The Jason Kidd, R.J. K.Kittles, K-Mart era is done. They won two Eastern Conference Championships in a row back in 2001-2003 and were dismantled. The team does have a good basketball mind working for them in Rod Thorn. But right now, with plans to move the team here to Brooklyn looking like reality, the team stinks to high heaven. And there's your problem. Let me tell you why.
I may remain a Knicks fan. But I'll be spending my money right here in Brooklyn. There's a very good chance, unimaginable to me once upon a time, I may switch to the Nets; - Meaning should they both play each other in say, an Eastern Conf. Championship series, hmmm, times may be a-changin'.
This is what I was thinking today, because I drove by the sight where all this is supposed to take place.
In my forward but friendly way, I got their attention through the fence while they played. I came right out and told them, I was thinking about the Nets moving here, and wanted to know what they thought about the situation, and if they wanted to be mentioned on my blog. It was all good, we exchanged what they needed to know and I commenced with the questions upon their consent.
Kane is a Knicks fan. Farrell is a Nuggets fan. Really? I often wonder how that happens. Me? I don't understand not rooting for the home town team. I don't begrudge him at all though. As a matter of fact, when K-Mart and Camby (Knicks) went there, I myself kept an eye on Denver for a bit until I got over their respective departures.
Now, Here's the problem. And I don't think it's something the Nets should be taking lightly. I am old already by corporate advertising standards. I should be brand-loyal already. On-going advertising of Brand-X isn't geared towards me anymore. I've been buying the same toothpaste for 30 years - kinda thing.
Kane and Farrell are from one of the adjoining neighborhoods the "maybe Brooklyn" Nets will be drawing from. They are the one's still developing their product loyalties.
I asked them first off, if they cared the Nets will be coming to Brooklyn. To my surprise Farrell started off by saying not really. Kane said he cared. But that's when the stipulations started to surface. This is where the (Brooklyn) Nets have a problem. While Farrell backed-up a bit and said he did care, it depended on the state of the team.
Both gentlemen were in agreement when they said they cared but it depended on how they play, if they come. Kane was more willing to take off with the idea saying (paraphrasing) - If you're putting basketball in Brooklyn, you better come hard or don't come at all. Farrell agreed 100%, he wasn't quiet, he was right there in the mix, but Kane opened that box. Farrell made his point very clear though. He said (again, paraphrasing) Ya' gravitate towards skill. No one is gonna look up to you if you ain't got skill.
(usage of Brooklynese is all mine!)
I remind you, these cats are 16 year old basketball fans. This is prime NBA breeding grounds in so far as team and league loyalties are concerned.
Me personally, if the Nets do finally get here to Brooklyn, I will be a very very happy camper. I may always stay a Knicks fan at heart because I've been doing it for 35 years now. But I know where most of my NBA expenditures will be going if they come.
If Ratner maintains control of this team and doesn't strike a deal with Mikhail Prokhorov, his first order of business had better be to get in contact with his potential new fan base. Kane, Farrell and I are not going to follow a looser. Mr.Ratner, since you bought control of this team it has gotten incrementally worse where at present the team is 3-up and 32 down. If you think us Brooklynites are going to fill your arena to see that?...You can FUGGEDABOUD 'Dat Too!!! You're no stranger to us. We know you're only interested in the real estate development aspect of this. Purchasing the New Jersey Nets was merely a hook to get your way. It's business. I don't begrudge you, that. I'm just saying you better see if you can secure and develop a little passion for one of your holdings you wanna bring here from Jersey.
My hopes are that Mr. Prokhorov, who has a passion for basketball buys control of the team, moves to Brooklyn as his primary residence as he is reported to be leaning towards, and works closely with the communities supporting his possible Brooklyn endeavor. With his international resume, the league could be greatly enhanced by his inclusion to the league.
Kane and Farrell are in high school right now. They will graduate before the team plays a game here, most likely. In five years from now, God willing they're in mid-college. Ten years from now at age 26, the Nets could have been here for 6 or 7 of those years? My two friends, we hope will be in pursuit of their careers with their own discretionary income. Families perhaps will be in their futures. And you know sports teams are like family heirlooms. Just look at the Dodgers of Brooklyn past. As a Nets owner you want Brooklynites to pass down their sport team loyalties right?
3 and 32. That's the record. The question is this. Is what they're doing now, rebuilding, going to translate into success by the time they hit Brooklyn? Or, if and when they get here, we will be forced to sit through another, or still continuing rebuilding period. Hmmm?
Mr. Ratner, if you're bringing the Nets here just to have them be the latest incarnation of the Washington Generals (think GlobeTrotters folks)...you can just Fuggedit'. I'd rather have the Fish That Saved Pittsburgh!
Just like my two new friends KANE and FARRELL said today, "If you're talking to me about Brooklyn and Basketball, you better come hard or go home! People are going to gravitate towards the skill - no one will look to you if you don't have skill."
There it is. Kane, Farrell and I said our part. It's up to the Nets to listen to the conversation taking place around them. This, Brooklyn, could be the new SPOT of all the NBA. We can sit a celebrity row of rows too, and with much cooler stars. Take That!
I want to thank Kane and Farrell very much for their time and input today. I kinda ambushed them with the TROLLEY today but they seemed very cool about it and were nothing but smiles.