I wanted to write a long fan post about my experience at the London game, my thoughts on the NBA in London and what the Nets need to do with players currently on their roster. Get comfortable, this may take a while.
I went to the first London game on Friday 4th March and very much enjoyed seeing my Nets play for the first time live and for them to claim a much needed win. I decided to spend heavily and buy two court side tickets for myself and a close Canadian friend who happens to be a die hard Toronto Raptors fan. It was a great experience being at a competitive regular season game. Our seats were located opposite the Toronto bench and we were literally a few seats away Didier Drogba, David Luiz and William Gallas all international and premier league footballers. A lot of fans were coming up to have their photo taken with Droga throughout the night.
I have been to the 02 Arena before to see Prince play during his legendary 21 night residency. I also saw Madonna perform too. This is the arena that Led Zeppelin played in during their one off reunion gig. It has also hosted pre-season exhibition games the last four years when NBA teams have visited. It is a fantastic venue and a capacity crowd of 18,000+ were there.
The publicity has been universally positive about the two games in London (including the British media) and I’ll speculate now that the NBA is going to bring back another two games to the o2 arena next season. I do wonder whether they will schedule it for a different month of the season but the NBA season pretty much covers the whole of the British winter and spring so its always going to be cold. Just like when the NFL plays its annual London game here at Wembley Stadium it has always sold out and I’m sure that would be the case with NBA games although the league may now try and put one of their more famous franchises in the fixture. I think Prokhorov will probably volunteer to give up another couple of home games next season to repeat the London trip to gain further international exposure during their final season in New Jersey. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Prokhorov then volunteered to be the “away” team when the Nets were in the Barclays Centre so to continue the London experience while not giving up home games in Brooklyn. But this is just my speculation.
I thought Prokhorov was impressive in the 25 minute media event before the Friday game, he gave excellent answers, he was honest and direct (not all owners would have been) and he was amusing. All that combined is pretty impressive for an owner. The amount of publicity Prokhorov has attracted has been significant (especially compared to his Toronto counterpart).
I’m not going to review the game because we all know what happened but here are my thoughts on the fan experience.
The crowd was appreciative but very quiet. For many people this was there first NBA game and I guess they didn’t know how to cheer or support. Despite it being a “home” game for the Nets the fans supporting the Raptors easily outnumbered the Nets fans in noise and in appearance. I hardly saw any Nets jerseys compared to many many Raptors jerseys. One of the familiar chants of the night was “Lets Go Raptors”. However, I would imagine the vast majority of the crowd didn’t particularly mind which team won and were wanting an entertaining game and a fun night out. I’m guessing they used similar music during the game to what they use at the Rock but with most people being unfamiliar this with the music this made it seem quiet. I am yet to watch the game back on my DVR. British people tend to be quite reserved anyway although fans had definitely come from all over Europe and London is a very international and diverse place to live.
The crowd were appreciative to get an authentic NBA experience and the Nets dancers were very popular. Their dancing and dunking at time outs grew huge cheers, this might sound unimportant but most fans there had never seen anything like it. Sly the Nets mascot was there too but he was rather outshone by the Raptors mascot who played a lot more to the crowd and was a lot more fun. There is work to do there I think Nets organization. It’s the little things when you are trying to enter a new market. The half time music by the violinists was bizarre and totally out of place for the NBA game, poor choice – they could easily have paid for a better and more appropriate public appearance.
My thoughts on the players performance and the future of the franchise.
It is clear to me that the Nets need to upgrade at the SG, SF and PF positions. In the simplest sense we need to upgrade the talent level of this team.
In the next part I haven't suggested who the Nets should attempt to sign as that is part of a separate discussion.
I was so glad to see DWill live and to see his first victory for the Nets. Its been said numerous times on this website that he makes his team mates better. Absolutely true. My Raptors supporting buddy was saying how DWill was setting up our players for such easy baskets on occasion and they were finding really simple ways to score because of his assists. In the first half DWill’s shooting was awful, sure he has a serious wrist injury and he did look hesitant but in the second half he made adjustments and scored almost all his points. That is the mark of a great player, making adjustments. His influence was massive. Just think what the Nets could be with a healthy DWill!
Anthony Morrow and Sacha Vujacic didn’t do anything to seriously impress me. I think when you are moving forward as a franchise which wants to compete for a championship you can only afford to have one of these two players on the roster and even then not as a starter. Both players have good reason for being that one player but Morrow’s shooting is attractive especially with the number of open looks he should get next year. I say let Sacha walk in the offseason and don't offer him a new contract.
Travis Outlaw and Damion James. I have to say this started out as a major disappointment for me. Both looked very poor yet both show such promise. Outlaw has a great body and we know he has skills and has won games in the past. However, he looks like he has no confidence in his game at the moment and from watching him in London he did nothing to make me think the amount of abuse he gets on NetsDaily is not warranted. Damion James has great size too and I respect he has been injured this season and is a rookie. He started very slowly in the first half but before I could write him off he gave a strong second half performance. I think he is a keeper but again one that is likely to make an impact from the bench.
Kris Humphries. I’ve been reading all season about his great performances and I was very happy to see him play hard in London. He was tough around the basket and vacuumed up rebounds. As my Raptors friend said in an impressed voice “every team needs a garbage man”. He will score easy baskets because of Dwill and we definitely need to sign him to an extension but the franchise would be foolish to over pay him. Hump has a niche and is excellent in that niche but he is a bench player who can provide energy and do the few things that he is very good at. I was impressed with Hump but he is not the answer at the Power Forward for the Nets. The team has to figure out who to pursue over the summer because if they can upgrade at PF and keep Hump then it makes life so much better for Lopez.
Brook Lopez, a star not a superstar. I think we have all seen that with DWill feeding Lopez the ball he can be a league leading scoring threat. It was great to see his beautiful soft touch around the basket and Lopez really is money when his shot is falling. My friend the Raptors fan left the night with a very different opinion of Lopez to the one he arrived with. I just think next season pairing Lopez with an upgrade at the PF will allow Lopez’s game to blossom even more. He has yet to play with a quality power forward.
Jordan Farmer didn’t impress me with his game too much, yes he hit two keys three pointers in Friday's win but I would say he is expendable in any trade that can bring an upgrade at another position. Gaines gave the team a lift when DWill was sat down and we should see what Gaines can do the rest of this season.
Without being rude I have to say that Johan Petro and Stephen Graham have no place in the future of the Nets and if Petro can be moved in any trade package I would not hesitate to wave him goodbye. Petro's highlight of the night was greeting his fellow Frenchman Didier Drogba. Graham should not be on the roster next season either and his team option declined.
I would have liked to have seen Brandon Wright but the little general had other ideas.
Coach Avery did nothing to stand out in my opinion but he should be given the full season next year to prove he is the right man for the job to lead the Nets into Brooklyn.