From the ashes of the New Jersey chapter of the Nets era rises the Brooklyn Nets: a team fronted by a billionaire Russian and a rap legend/business mogul named Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z. This team is not messing around anymore. Watch out!"Hello Brooklyn how you doing? Where you going? Can I come too And if I can I'm a be your man you could be my lady" "We got some victims to catch so in a couple years I'm a bring you some Nets" Hello Brooklyn 2.0 - Jay-Z Jay-Z is a born and bred Brooklyn man and has a passion for the city like no one else. During his years of recording 11 #1 albums, getting involved in numerous business projects and accumulating an estimated personal fortune of $450mil, Jay-Z has been dreaming of an NBA team in Brooklyn. The first real step towards bringing the NBA to his home town was when he purchased a minor share of the New Jersey Nets in 2005. The Nets had played in New Jersey since 1967 (apart from a 10 year stint as the New York Nets in the ABA/NBA) and no offense to New Jersey but it is hardly the most glamorous location. His involvement with the team was more than just a business transaction from the very start after he was the main pusher for the team to move to Brooklyn. The start of the potential move begun when the team was sold to Bruce Ratner in 2004. When Jay-Z came on board in 2005 he convinced Ratner to develop a piece of land in Brooklyn that would be known as the Atlantic Yards. Ratner is a real estate developer so the lure of having an NBA team in a shiny new arena (Barclays Center) as the centrepiece of his new development was too good for him to resist. He poured his millions into the project but a legal battle with opponents of the development and financial troubles caused by the GFC put everything in jeopardy. Playing in Brooklyn almost appeared lost until Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, bought an 80% share of the team from Ratner in 2009 for $200mil and also provided a $700mil loan to finish the new arena. Mikhail is as crazy and energetic as he is rich and right from the start he promised to transform the Nets from a middle of the pack team to a hard hitting, high spending heavyweight. Coming from a man that is 6ft8 and loves kickboxing, these were not just words. His $13.2bil personal wealth would be backing the transformation of the perennial losers they had become after some short lived glory days to an Eastern Conference powerhouse fighting for a title. Jay-Z will provide an image makeover with updated arena music and entertainment and don't discount his ability to woo the big stars to Brooklyn (see this article on an NCAA investigation into his dealings with college players). After failing to land a major free agent in the summer of 2010 the Nets would have to wait two years to strike again with a series of moves designed to upgrade the roster from so-so to contender.
The New Erapublicly expressed a desire to team up with Deron and form another super team. An offer was put to Orlando that included Brook Lopez, draft picks and role players but the offer was rejected. While the offer was rejigged with other teams involved, the Nets looked elsewhere and traded for Hawks shooting star Joe Johnson, on July 2nd. Despite his heavy contract it was a gamble they needed to take if they were to convince Deron Williams that they were serious. After the Dwight Howard trade fell through, the Nets received the news they had wanted to hear all summer with Deron Williams signing a new 5 year contract. This was quickly followed with Gerald Wallace signing a 4 year deal, and with Brook Lopez no longer needed as a trade asset he signed his contract extension. The basis of a super team had finally been formed and on paper this team was starting to look very dangerous. Kris Humphries agreed to return to the Nets for a 2 year period and they also signed Bosnian forward, Mirza Teletovic, to a 3 year $9mil contract. This low-key signing could end up being a great move for the Nets if his game translates over from Europe (check out this YouTube video of him dominating the Euro League). With some other key signings (Reggie Evans and CJ Watson) the Nets have filled out their bench with capable players. Photo Credit: Getty Images
What to ExpectWith a starting line-up that reads Williams (PG), Johnson (SG), Wallace (SF), Humphries (PF) and Lopez (C), this team will be a playoffs team from the start. Their bench is also impressive with MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic, CJ Watson and Reggie Evans all capable of providing quality backup minutes. Will they challenge the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference? Most likely not in year one, but the ingredients are there if they can get some chemistry going and Avery Johnson figures out a suitable game plan to handle the big teams in the East. While Dwight Howard would have been very handy keeping potential scorers out of the paint and dunking everything thrown to him on the other end - it was not to be. Brook Lopez is not Dwight Howard on the defensive end and has copped criticism from his owner in the past but he does know how to put the ball in the basket very well. Kris Humphries should make up for Lopez's lack of rebounding with his ability to clean the glass so they are reasonably okay in the big man department. Gerald Wallace is a do everything type forward that provides great energy and has been an all defensive player in the past (something the team lacks). Joe Johnson is probably the biggest question mark for this team. He was no doubt a great scorer for Atlanta but how will he play in an offense that won't be iso heavy? He will have to learn how to catch and shoot more and he can't rely on getting 20+ shots a night anymore. Deron Williams will be the key to this team and the on-court leader. His ability to dish out 20 assists a night and knock down a 57 point game will go a long way to making this a competitive team. Even though 2012/13 will still be genesis for this team, they are all experienced guys who know how to play basketball. This roster has the opportunity to do some damage in the playoffs if they can get the chemistry right (which I don't see being a problem).
ConclusionWith Jay-Z concerts planned for the first week of the NBA season, a new $700mil arena and a superstar lined roster the Brooklyn Nets are going to be the talk of the NBA in November. A rivalry match with the Knicks awaits them at the Barclays Center on October 30 (US time) and the start of a new era will begin. No matter what happens in 2012/13, the Nets move to Brooklyn will be judged a success and in the years to come they will be a legitimate free agent destination. Can anyone say LeBron James in 2014-15? Don't count it out given he counts Jay-Z as a close friend.
Will the new look Nets live up to the hype or will it be the same old with a different name? Post your thoughts below. Photo Credit: (top) SHoP Architects