When Jake Appleman saw his childhood NBA team preparing to move to the big city, he decided to go along for the ride. Appleman had been writing about the then-New Jersey Nets for various publications when the team pulled up roots and moved to Brooklyn. The move marked a new chapter in Appelman’s fandom, and he decided to chronicle the Nets’ first season in the borough in his new book, “Brooklyn Bounce,” which he will launch at BookCourt on Feb. 4. We caught up with Appleman to find out how he filled 256 pages with a single season of basketball.
Matt Spolar: Why did you write this book?
Jake Appleman: I have a longstanding history with the Nets, dating back to my childhood watching them play in East Rutherford and then covering them in Newark. I was on the scene when the transition was happening, so when the idea of doing this project came about I felt more comfortable taking it on because I had been there for the lead-in.
MS: What part of this transition did you focus on?
JA: Mostly the on-court transformation from this sort of rag-tag team that they had in Newark to a respectable outfit that they have in Brooklyn, and everything that goes along with that. Being a subpar on-court team in New Jersey is not the best thing for reputation or media or fans. I had that perspective going in, so I wanted to see what would happen when they transformed the team on the court heading into Brooklyn — the logo, the way the new ownership was spending more, all that stuff.
MS: Does it feel like you’re watching the Nets of your childhood?
JA: It’s more — how do I put it? — professional, I guess. More corporate, more bottom-line oriented. A little less personality driven on the outside. It’s more the new thing that’s expanding. It used to be like a small club and if you were a part of it you knew you were a part of something smaller. And now, it’s this sort of new, cool thing that wants to expand.
MS: How do you feel the move went over overall?
JA: It was amazing how quickly it started to feel just normal and like home. As far as the transition to the city, I think they did some things right. I think they oversold the Brooklyn brand on purpose, and I think that’s one of the things they need to look at going forward — promoting the Nets but not Brooklyn so much, because only a certain percentage of the people in the stands live in Brooklyn and none of the players do. A lot people in the organization don’t.
MS: Has the Nets ownership done the right things to make the team a success in Brooklyn?
JA: I think whether or not they did things correctly is still a question that in some ways is waiting to be answered if they build a practice facility in Brooklyn. Then, if players move to Brooklyn it becomes more of this Brooklyn entity as opposed to being something where they practice in New Jersey and then they commute to work here.
Jake Appleman launches “Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball’s Historic First Season in the Borough” at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875–3677, www.bookcourt.com]. Feb. 4 at 7 pm. Free.