High-stakes opening: Nets have a lot on line in Barclays debut

July 26, 2012 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Brooklyn fans have waited 55 years for a major pro sports franchise to call their own.

Downtown real estate magnate Bruce Ratner and billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov have spent the better part of the past decade trying to deliver that team to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Now that the Nets’ dream of moving into the nearly complete Barclays Center is about to be realized in what will go down as an historic night in our borough’s fabled sports history, the Knicks have been put in position to put a damper on the proceedings, as the league will announce Thursday night that the first-ever Brooklyn Nets game will be a face-off of epic proportions.

But why?

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

While its evident that NBA commissioner David Stern is anxious to have a genuine East River Rivalry between the Knicks and Nets, couldn’t the league at least have let the Nets have a night all their own at Barclays before Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony and James Dolan’s crew showed up looking to spoil the party?

Knicks-Nets is bound to be a sellout and a well-publicized showdown wherever, and more importantly, whenever it takes place.

But you only get one Opening Night.

So why is it that the Nets, who have played in the Knicks’ ever-looming shadow since entering the NBA in 1976, have to share their special once-in-a-lifetime evening with their big brothers from across the bridge(s)?

Why will the 18,000 seat arena now be at least half-filled with fans donning orange-and-blue, rather than a sea of the Nets’ new black-and-white color scheme?

Wouldn’t Raptors-Nets or Sixers-Nets do just fine for the grand opening of the state-of-the-art arena, which will certainly be sold out and electric with atmosphere regardless of the Opening Night opponent?

Instead, newly re-signed All-Star point guard Deron Williams and the rest of the Nets will truly have to defend their home court against their crosstown rivals or forever live with the blemish of the Knicks walking out of the Barclays Center with the first regular-season win in the history of the building.

The rivalry, or lack thereof in the past, has already been intensified leading into this season by sparring owners Prokhorov and Dolan’s much-chronicled Battle of the Billboards as well as players. 

New Net Joe Johnson proclaimed Brooklyn the best New York basketball team at Borough Hall last week, and Anthony recently replied by claiming the Knicks would do all their talking on the court rather than via “trash talking”.

The Knicks and Nets will be battling for this city’s basketball soul at least four times this coming campaign, not including a potential playoff series between the teams. But staging the first of those epic clashes on the Nets’ first night in Brooklyn has raised the ante significantly.

The Opening Night confrontation will certainly add to the glory of arriving in our fair borough for the Nets, if, of course, they manage a win.

However, a loss to the Knicks won’t go down smooth no matter how many cocktails one swallows in the Jay-Z designed “Vault” luxury suites.

For Game One, it seems a bit much. 

Then again, in “Brooklyn, we go hard.”

See you Nov. 1.

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