Chances are the last time Mirza Teletovic made it on SportsCenter, his arms were around the neck of royalty. Wait. Was that LeBron James horse collar really just two weeks ago? After their NBA's best, 9-1 clip, all the wins are becoming blurred. But yeah, two weeks and several victories ago, Mirza was a top story. As was his sly smile after his infamous foul. He was hollering back "It's only basketball!" as the greatest of all ballers made a not so great, fugazy-esque run at him. It's still only basketball but on Friday night the Bosnian Bomber decided to let his deadly range do the talking. He exploded onto the national stage and returned to SportsCenter, but this time for the right reason. Coming off the bench, Teletovic's 24 second quarter points also gave him a new reason to smile. For the first time ever, he put the entire Nets team on his back and showed that even with Brook Lopez out for the year, Brooklyn still rolls ten deep.
Up at the Big Brown Bass Drum, Carmelo Anthony was getting busy too. His franchise best 62 points (still 38 points less than the record for points scored against the Knicks) needs no further hype. But who doesn't already know about Anthony's offensive prowess? The real news came at the Rusty Turtle where Mirza shocked everyone by lighting up a stanza in ways that even Anthony couldn't. Firing 6-7 from behind the arc (his only miss came on a last second desperation shot before the half ended) proved that for one quarter at least, MT-3 could make it rain like any Joe Johnson storm. Not to compare Brooklyn's latest star with JJ. Not to compare him with Melo either, but this type of bench depth is what separates contenders like the Nets, from pretenders like the Knicks. Well, lots separate the two but now Mirza's arsenal can truly be added to the list.
Having Dallas' Mark Cuban in the house witnessing Teletovic's coming out party only made things sweeter. The owner who was counting on grabbing Deron Williams a few yeas back (but settled for Vince Carter and Devin Harris; in fairness both played well) talked much before the game. Not so much after. The Brigade on the other hand? Well, we talked before, during and after. As for the stuff you can't read about in the sports pages, this was the group at its most proper. From being joined by newbies like Hollywood Danny Turk, to Steph-Rock, to Jaida-Love, to Carlos' Birthday Crew, to Alex '80s, to our own Honest Abe (honest enough to admit his Orange-n-Blue allegiance, although that'll change), to the welcomed return of Carlos Dos, and a late cameo by our leader, Bobby Gotham, this shaped itself into the mother of all outings. Some nights start off meekly but end with a bang. Game 6 vs. Chicago comes to mind. Others start vociferously and end with a bunch of grown men crying in their beers. See Game 7. This one, without all the fear and anxiety which comes with playoffs basketball, was simply Kid Dynamite-styled good times throughout. From pre-game festivities at Mo's Fort Greene, to the arena walk, to the game itself, there was just a confidence in the air. No one could predict Mirza's outburst (one Brigade member even had the chutzpah to start the evening by talking up Gerald Green) but as a group, everyone knew the Nets would leave us all happy.
That happiness hit all parts of the arena. Unlike previous outings, a high demand on tickets left us in several different sections. But that only allowed our "MT-3" chants to echo through all corners of building. And as seen below, it also led to a wider variety of album shots, even if overall the group appeared smaller than it actually was. Ay, that's what he said. Either way, as we reunited afterwards to our usual post-game stomping ground, the 4th Avenue Pub, there was no containing a certain glow. It's the type of confidence that fans of good teams carry and on this night we had it. Even if, like the winning streak itself, the flow of beer somewhat blurred our high spirits. Even if, towards the end things got a bit hazy. At some point we were joined by a German couple. Then a South Korean one. Maybe our team is global after all? But there was nothing unclear in spotting Jacob taking orders from behind the bar.
As a group we hadn't seen Jacob, the pub's co-owner and on again/off again Nets fan since the Bill Melchioni/Rick Barry days, in nearly a year. Still, he remembered us enough to drop off a more than generous bill. He also briefly talked some ABA hoops. This year's club might not have the newness that Jacob can still recall during their Long Island days. They don't have the edge of being part of a renegade league. They don't have the coolness of redefining pro-ball. But this collection is fun to watch. Much more fun than last year. After all the early season letdowns, injuries, off-court drama and tension, Deez Nets are finally playing like a team. They seem more together than at any point last season. And individually, from watching Shaun Livingston step up, to Andray Blatche, to now MT-3, they're more surprising too. This ain't the 1970s Nets (despite the barkeep's 1970s-type deal in drink prices), or even the early 2000s Nets, but Deez Nets have brought the fun back. They've made 4:0 AM subway rides during the dead of winter *almost-almost* bearable. While Deez Nets can't play .900 basketball for the remainder of the season, they can keep the fun vibe alive. As long as that happens, deez fans can't complain.
Oh, and speaking of fun and fans, much props to Brigade friend and number one Nets fan, Zac "Half Court" Cullen! In front of 17,000+ fans and an international TV audience, Big Zac stood calm, cool and collected while attempting a 50 footer during a third quarter timeout. Without an inkling of nerves, the Jersey kid stepped to the plate. His form was tight. His shot was strong. For a second it even looked true before drifting wide right. Despite the close miss, Cullen made us all proud so for that he gets our love and this special shout-out!
Finally… Big Ups to "Hollywood Danny Turk" (an actual screenwriter mind ya) and our own "Trippy" (a damn good proofreader) for the many bonus shots.
Oh and FINALLY-FINALLY, for all the frolic I gotta add that "KingofDenial," "Mets-Jets-Nets," "JohnfromLongIsland," "ShaneGayle" "Mill16" and "NoJersey" were all missed. Hope to catch those old vets and some more newbies when we do it again.