Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brooklyn Nets: What Goes Around Comes Around

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Twenty Two Days Till Tip-Off

BROOKLYN NETS:  Payback Comes In Many Form$.

After a deal to play their home games in Manhattan fell through, the first season for the team we now call the Brooklyn Nets opened in Teaneck, New Jersey.  That's because pressure from the establishment; the New York Knickerbockers; forced the New York/New Jersey Americans of the fledgling American Basketball Association out of town before they ever got started.  The Americans/Nets had to set up camp in relative anonymity on the outskirts of the city where they stayed since their inaugural 1967 season.  Forty five years later, that all changes on the first of November.

Back in the day, recognition for the new club was hard fought, but came in due time.  And with Dr.J on the team, what an era it was.  Then came the NBA/ABA merger.  When the NBA merged with the ABA, the Knicks hit the Nets hard in the pocket as New York exercised their right to impose territorial fees, which was not the case when the ABA existed as the NBA's rival.  The cost to join the NBA was already more than just an unsettling sum in 1970's dollars.  The additional Knicks tariff effectively cost the Nets organization the services of their franchise player, Julius Erving.  Owner Roy Boe sold Dr. J to the Philadelphia 76ers to cover the costs of both the NBA entrance fee, and the Knicks tariff.

When the Nets relocated to New Jersey yet again for the 1977-1978 season, the Knicks nailed the Nets with a second territorial tariff for re-invading New Jersey.  With a few smatterings of success along the way, the Knicks and even the New Jersey Nets themselves proceeded to render the club inconsequential in N.Y.C.'s eyes for the better part of the next twenty five years.

Once the Dolans purchased the Knicks and Madison Square Garden, as long as the Nets remained on the peripheries of town, their monopoly was secure.  Under Dolan's ownership, for the better part of a decade it was demonstrated to Knicks fans the product on the court was a non issue.  Isiah Thomas was free to destroy the organization as he saw fit without interference, or nary a peep from his owner/boss.

Along the way came the proposed West Side Stadium project for the Jets Football team.  Opposing the project was perhaps Dolan's greatest moment.  As vanguard of the monopoly, the Dolans/MSG attacked the Jets proposed stadium with fury.   Once the project was soundly defeated and the Jets found common ground with the Giants, Jimmy Strings went right back to playing his guitar.  The Knicks or Rangers were never his passion gig.  At the time, Madison Square Garden was.

Were it not for West Side, Jimmy Strings would have been content playing in his band.  The short term mistake moral of the story here - With no competition comes no worries - that is until Bruce Ratner purchased the Nets and announced plans to relocate club to Brooklyn.  The March 10, 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for Barclays Center also effectively initiated a frantic effort at Dolan's  behest to renovate Madison Square Garden.  Additionally, with direct competition staring Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, and James Dolan in the face, the owner suddenly had immediate and pressing reasons to improve his on-court product with haste.  This was so contrary to his want for remaining in the background while Isiah Thomas ran the organization into the ground for so many years as Dolan's personal supreme allied commander.

Fast forward - Commissioner Stern effectively forces the Knicks to "unseat" Zeke, and hire Donnie Walsh as General Manager.  Two years later, the Nets involvement in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes drive up the trade price for the star forward and figuratively set off riot gas into the Knicks front office.  Genuine interest on behalf of the Nets, not to mention a credible chance of landing Anthony caused the Knicks to fork over what many still consider a ridiculous dowry to secure Melo's services.  At the time, the still unresolved situation regarding the NBA's collective bargaining agreement complicated matters.  The Nets ultimately pulled out of the deal when Mikhail Prokhorov announced the trade became too complicated and stopped making sense.

For the time being and for good reason as we'll see, the Nets seemed more content watching the Knicks press conference in which Jim Dolan stuck an apple in (now former) Coach DAntoni's mouth, then wiped his feet on Donnie Walsh and kicked him to the curb.  The Knicks owner giddily surrendered everything Denver wanted in return for Carmelo during negotiations that in my opinion were marked by folly.  The Nets on the other hand wound up enjoying the last laugh of the trade deadline by pulling off the ultimate coup.  Under the cover of night, the Nets secured guard Deron Williams from Utah in a trade, trumping the Knicks acquisition of Anthony.

Indeed, Jim Dolan all but punched the eject button on Donnie Walsh's stay with the Knicks.  The owner's course of action was nothing short of stupefying considering Walsh was the very person who miraculously, and almost entirely, un-did all the wrong wrought upon the organization over the previous nine years.  Today, the Knicks front office continues to exist in a state of chaos, and grows  more erratic by the month.  What no one should fail to realize however was the reason Jim Dolan took a lead in the Melo sweepstakes was born of the same motivations he had for opposing West Side - capitalism, or more precisely, Jim's monopoly.  For the second time ever, Jimmy put down his six-string only when the empire was threatened, this time by the Nets.

On November 1, 2012 the future of these two organizations starts anew.  From Teaneck to Long Island, and back to New Jersey again, all the Knicks have ever done is cause the Nets hardships, and directly contributed to some of their identity issues. They served their inconsequential neighbors with multiple relocation fees, and effectively caused the Nets to relinquish (sell) the rights to Dr. J.

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is Dolan's chief competitor now, and his team will play in downtown Brooklyn.  After forking over numerous millions of dollars to the Knicks for the right to exist, the Nets have taken up residence in the city's most populous borough.  This time, the Manhattan Knicks aren't entitled to a dime.

Better yet, now faced for the very first time with direct competition for the city's fans and dollars, the Nets and Barclays Center have caused the Knicks to spend considerable sums of money on hasty, and long overdue MSG upgrades. The Nets have additionally instigated the Knicks to assemble a roster of ill-fitting, injury prone players with max contracts.  And with their most recent signing, the Knicks have officially become the oldest team in the league.  Meanwhile, the Nets front office has seemingly transitioned away from the Rod Thorn years very effectively.  Of course, the team's play on the court will ultimately determine that.  But the roster GM Billy King has assembled for Brooklyn's inaugural season, on paper at least, looks like an Eastern Conference contender.

In twenty two more days, the real rivalry will tip-off on the court.  But with the Nets mere presence in Brooklyn alone, the Knicks are already learning that payback for all that rotten treatment of the Nets in years gone by, is turning out to be a real bitch; and an increasingly expensive one at that.

.....Guess what goes around, comes around.


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