The Nets aren’t going to win a New York popularity contest anytime soon. And, really, that’s the whole point.
Brooklyn star Deron Williams raised some eyebrows last week when he spoke of the team’s stature in its home city.
“You can say we’ve been the JV at times,” Williams told reporters. “I think it definitely would mean a lot to clinch the division title. To the fans, to the organization. I think it would be huge. There’s no doubt about that.”
Winning the Atlantic Division, of course, implies the Nets would oust the league-leading Manhattan Knicks. And during Brooklyn’s odyssey of a road trip, the team has an opportunity to do just that.
But D-Will’s use of the term “JV” — to compare teams that split their season series 2-2 — smacks of a broader connotation, to a belief that the Nets must prove they are not simply the lesser of New York City’s two franchises.
Let’s be clear: winning a division title won’t erase years of blind Knicks fandom from the blood of many New York basketball lovers.
Sure, the Knicks management has done just about everything imaginable over the past decade to stand in the way of building a good team, but most casual hoops fans aren’t that attuned.
Half the Knicks roster might be using walkers next year, but things are good now, and that makes people happy — and commands media attention.
You can see a similar scenario playing out in Los Angeles, where for years the Los Angeles Clippers were the laughingstock of the league. Now that LA’s second team is among the NBA’s best and the Lakers are fighting for a playoff spot, does this mean the Clippers are the talk of the town?
Anyone who has turned their radio dial to hours of Lakers sports talk in Southern California knows the answer.
Moreover, Brooklyn’s half-court style hardly matches that of the Clippers’ exciting “Lob City.” What you’re getting at the Barclays Center every night is basketball for diehards, not a high-flying spectacle.
But isn’t that just how it should be?
A team that wears black-and-white and plays unflashy basketball? A team that could be the jewel of the city, but is paid no mind? A team removed, thankfully, from the bright lights and overinflated egos of Manhattan?
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.