It wasn't your typical NBA pre-season game. It wasn't played at an NBA arena, wasn't televised. It was, however, historic, the first Brooklyn Nets game ever, the debut of the team's road uniform. (For the record, Joe Johnson was the first Net to lose the warm-ups and give us a look at the sleek black.) We recount some of what else we saw in Atlantic City. It was all good.
When the Brooklyn Nets released their "Hello Brooklyn" video at the end of April, one of the promises made was this one: "Brooklyn will become a chant." Really? we wondered. Sounded like more hype from the Nets marketing arm. And even if that happens, we asked ourselves, how long will it take to catch on? It took about a quarter of the first game played by the Brooklyn Nets.
The slow chant could be heard scattered around the arena early, but with four seconds left in overtime, after Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson hit the go-ahead bucket and final free throws, quieting the Philly crowd, it filled Boardwalk Hall. Even after the game, as HUNDREDS of Nets fans in Brooklyn gear filed out on to the Boardwalk, it could be heard, slow and atonal. "Brook-lyn, Brooklyn." It was shocking, it was moving! Imagine 18,000 fans chanting like that, Deron Williams said after the game. We can imagine it but will remember to bring a hankie Monday.
The starters played well, with the exception of Kris Humphries who hit the first shot in Brooklyn Nets history, then missed the other four shots he took.
Deron Williams was Deron Williams, dominating and enjoying not having double and triple teams thrown at him. In the second quarter, he simply took over, was the top 10 NBA player and one of the game's best PG's. His running mate (and oh, how they looked to run) appeared to have some early butterflies but played better as the game went on. No worries.
Brook Lopez was way efficient. In 28 minutes, more than anyone expected him to play, he finished with 19 points (on 6 -or-11 shooting, including two jump hooks), nine boards, three blocks and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He moved well and with confidence, mixing it up underneath. We were happy for him.
We will no longer countenance arguments that the Gerald Wallace trade was a bad move, one that should get Billy King fired (as Chad Ford suggested). Crash lived up to his nickname, playing as hard as anyone in the NBA. He also took over the game at the start of the second half, scoring the Nets first nine points. He finished with his usual stat sheet-stuffing numbers: 18 points (on 6-of-11 shooting, 5-of-6 at the line), seven boards, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots, including one where he raced down court after a steal and saved the basket.
Did the Nets really get C.J. Watson to sign for the vets minimum? Really? There have been rumors out of training camp that Watson was one of the stars at informal workouts and then practice sessions, but the C.J. Watson that showed up Saturday night exceeded all expectations. He controlled the ball, drove the lane for floaters, hit open jumpers, sealed the game with two clutch free throws ... and played good defense. Playing him alongside D-Will should work very well, if the Sixer game holds true.
Project Zero showed promise. Andray Blatche went for 12 and 5 in 21 minutes off the bench, didn't make many mental errors, and hit the go-head jumper with 27.1 seconds left in overtime. What was most impressive was his mobility for a big man, using some neat post moves. He like Lopez was perfect from the line, going 4 for 4. Not too many teams can say that their two tallest players are among their best free throw shooters. The Nets shot 85.2% from the line.
Poor Mirza. Most if not all three point shooters are streaky. So let's leave it at that, well that and Avery Johnson's point that he can "hit from the parking lot." A number of his shots barely missed and we wonder if the gods had let one of them fall, would that have led to others dropping.
The second unit missed Marshon Brooks. If he had played, the Nets would have had a reliable scorer beyond Watson on the court. He would have also taken pressure of the bigs and opened things up a bit more.
We sat behind the 76ers bench and got a great view of Andrew Bynum. The entire game, he sat and joked at the end of the bench, at the edge of huddles, thought it quite funny that Wallace dove over the Sixer bench in pursuit of a loose ball. He is blessed with great talent, but we wonder just how well Doug Collins is going to be able to handle his other side, the immature man-child.
We didn't see the ghosts of Nucky or Chalky or other denizens of "Boardwalk Empire." Boardwalk Hall was constructed when Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, the real-life model for HBO's Nucky Thompson, ran Atlantic County (and thought twice as fast as anyone else in South Jersey.) It is a grand venue for its age. And the acoustics of its cavernous architecture made it perfect for that "Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn" chant. Did we mention that chant?