Brooklyn Nets training camp preview: New home, new swagger

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Brooklyn Nets didn't schlep across the Hudson away from a fan base gone dormant just to play basketball. They're in New York City to not just win, but to begin a hostile takeover of an area long down with the orange and the blue.

A new city, a borough starved for a professional sports franchise since 1957. A brand, spanking new, $1 billion area with enough luster to compete with the Mecca across the East River. New, fresh and hip colors that scream one word to sum up the Brooklyn Nets entering the 2012-13 season:

Attitude.

The Nets didn't schlep across the Hudson away from a fan base gone dormant just to play basketball. They're in New York City to not just win, but to begin a hostile takeover of an area long down with the orange and the blue.

The Nets have an owner in Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov not afraid to accept the challenge. As a matter of fact, it's one of his own creation. Through aggressive marketing campaigns, Prokhorov is staring down the New York Knicks and went as far to call them "the second team in New York" during an interview with WNYW FOX 5.

"Excuse me, what is that name? Ah, oh, Knicks. Yes, I've heard about this second team in New York," Prokhorov jokingly responded to a question before growing serious in discussing a rivalry about to be ratcheted to new levels. "I think we're getting to where we will have an epic rivalry. It will be great for the fans, for the basketball. I think really, the coming of the arena and team to Brooklyn, we can put finally put New York on the map. It's about time."

It doesn't matter that the Nets finished their final season in New Jersey 22-44 and 46-102 playing two seasons in Newark's Prudential Center. When an owner authorizes a general manager to invest roughly $330 million of his money in upgrades the stakes are higher than the bull market on its best day.

Prokhorov and Billy King successfully lobbied franchise point guard Deron Williams to stick around, be the face of Brooklyn and reap the rewards of the owner's global cachet. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries were also convinced to stay. The bench was buffed with the additions of veterans Josh Childress and Reggie Evans, and international sharpshooter Mirza Teletovic. Even the ridiculous Dwight Howard distractions didn't faze King. The GM traded for big-money shooting guard Joe Johnson and extended oft-injured but talented center Brook Lopez -- both prior to the Orlando Magic finally ending the Dwightmare and jettisoning the unhappy D12 to the Los Angeles Lakers.

King's attitude towards not bringing the prized Howard to the Barclays Center? So what? Against incredible pressure to re-sign Williams -- without him, Brooklyn's welcoming party would have had the ambiance of tea at high noon -- King did it and found other means to reshape the Nets into a playoff contender. On paper at least, he has a lot of which to brag.

"I think we have the best backcourt in the NBA," King told reporters. "That's no disrespect to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. I just think where these guys (Williams, Johnson) are in their careers, they are. What I really like is that they're both very physical offensively and defensively. They'll be the most physical backcourt in the league."

The Nets need to be physical and have to be good -- right away. The Big Russian is watching and expects a championship within three years. The time frame is the peak period of Brooklyn's top guns, so head coach Avery Johnson knows the time is now.

"We're a team that has a lot to prove," Johnson told USA Today. "We're a hungry team. Most of the players on our team have never played in the Finals, most of them.

"We've got some guys who have never been to the playoffs. They want to get in the big show, and that's the Finals. They know it's going to take a lot of hard work to get there. Guys know that time is running out, that they don't have 10 more years. The meat and potatoes of our rotation are guys who have a three- to five-year window."

The benefit of a full training camp allows valuable time for a Nets team with nine new players to jell, and it's helped that they've been working out at the team's training facility (still located in East Rutherford, N.J.). The bench will be good; the signing of free agent point guard C.J. Watson to back up Williams went under the radar, but could be a steal. Defensively, however, the Nets need to be tough and that starts with Lopez staying healthy and Andry Blatche making the most of what could be his final opportunity to succeed in the NBA.

Any "Blueprint for Success," to quote a large billboard rising across from Madison Square Garden during the summer of 2010 becomes reality only by winning. The Nets have the new building, right now the place to be, but must keep it that way. Time will tell if Prokhorov will one day back up his claim of turning Knicks fans into Nets fans, but a promising beginning may be in store. Tickets for the November 1 opener against the Knicks at Barclays Center was made available only to Nets full and partial season ticket holders. The game sold out in an instant. The Nets will bring the swagger and the attitude to Brooklyn, and fans are ready to receive. All the team has to do is deliver the goods come next spring. The real campaign begins in a month.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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