Deron Williams is already a face on Brooklyn billboards. Will he be the face of Brooklyn's team, too?
One of the best point guards of all time couldn’t do it. An air show full of no-look passes and alley-oop dunks couldn’t either. Back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals? Nada.
The New Jersey Nets, even when Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were leading them to Eastern Conference titles, were still the LA Clippers East. And when Kidd and Martin, and later Vince Carter left the building -- that cold, impersonal, swamp-surrounded eyesore known as the IZOD Center -- it got even worse.
That’s why LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony spurned the Nets. They listened to New Jersey’s pitches out of respect for Jay-Z, but all along, they never saw themselves playing in Jersey, not in East Rutherford and not in Newark.
But as I stood beneath my umbrella Wednesday afternoon in the pouring rain, not far from where hip-hop mogul Jay-Z grew up, staring into the guts of what will soon be the Barclays Center of Brooklyn, I couldn’t help but think that those days have ended. The team that plays here, I thought, won’t be a joke, a laughingstock, second rate.
For all those still wondering whether the Nets will ever move to Brooklyn -- stop wondering. It’s a done deal. After one more season in purgatory -- sorry, Newark -- the Nets will open the 2012-2013 season in what will certainly be the league’s finest arena.
The shell of the place is up. You can see where the lower-level seats will be, where the first row of suites will be. You can see that the stands will be intimately close to the court, which should lead to a raucous, uproarious, college-like atmosphere.
You can see that the Nets -- with Deron Williams hinting he may stay long term, and the cap room to add other stars (Dwight Howard?), and a vibrant, basketball-crazy borough as their new home -- could actually become something special.
“For the first time in quite some time, there is clarity, there is vision, there’s a plan in place that we think will help define success for us,’’ Nets CEO Brett Yormark said.
I looked to my left and saw a billboard featuring Williams -- "Game Recognizes Game," it said -- and my first thought was not, "Who are they fooling? Dude’s outta here." Instead, it was, "This might get him to stay -- being the face of all this." After toiling for years in near anonymity in Utah, the prospects of what the biggest borough in the biggest city can bring have to be enticing to D-Will.
If it’s enticing to Howard as well, the Nets could become immediate contenders.
Who knows what Howard will do? Maybe he’ll stay in Orlando. Maybe he’ll force a trade to the Lakers. Maybe he’ll want to join one of the world’s top playmakers to start a legacy all their own in Brooklyn.
Whatever the case, after eying the construction, and peeping the bustling scene of eclectic restaurants and hang-outs surrounding the site, one thing is clear: The Nets definitely will no longer be the Clippers East.