We focus this week on hockey since talking about basketball is too depressing. Another player heads overseas, making the Nets the only team with more than one player who's signed overseas. The Nets now have four, half the total who've decided to play in Europe. The prospect of a lost season looms larger every day. So we look at prospects for the Brooklyn Islanders, examine why Barclays Center was downsized in 2009, offer our take on James Dolan's "Fix the Knicks" and figure out a way to squeeze some hoops news in there without being too bummed.
Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, and now the lockout. We will rely on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting and analysis.
Play Some Hoops!
This is a week for watching box scores, if not games. Bojan Bogdanovic is in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for the Addeco Ex-YU 2011 Championships, a six team exhibition tournament of all former Yugoslavian republics. He will play Saturday vs. Montenegro (which features Nikola Vucevic of the SIxers) Saturday, then again on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. MarShon Brooks said he'll play Tuesday night in the Nike Pro-City Championship round and if his Dyckman/NYAC team wins, Thursday in the title game. Sundiata Gaines may play as well. A day later, Dan Gadzuric may get some action. He's on the Dutch national team's roster and if he can get insurance, he's expected to play in the EuroJam 2011 tournament in suburban Amsterdam starting Friday. The first night, it's Netherlands vs. Georgia, then the next day, Saturday, the Dutch play Villanova. Gadzuric and his fellow Dutchman Francisco Elson are supposed to play vs. Great Britain Sunday in another Eurobasket warm-up in, but it's highly unlikely their insurance deals will come through before then. (We know he's unlikely to be back with the Nets, but Gadzuric is not the worst choice for back-up center.)
We don't think anything is going to televised live, but we expect at least highlights of Bogdanovic's games to show up on Croatian hoops sites.
For more than a year, were told by people on the inside that Barclays Center (which always had plans for an ice rink) couldn't host NHL games. The arena, built for basketball, could only handle 14,500 for hockey. Good enough for college hockey and ice shows, but not good enough to convince the NHL that Barclays was an economically viable home for an NHL team. Not to mention sight lines. Some of the seats sold would offer less than an optimum view of the rink.
A market survey included in the 2009 bondholder prospectus on the Barclays Center was very careful to note that there were issues that would make it difficult for the Islanders to relocate to Brooklyn:
Current design plans would see the Barclays Center constructed as a facility that is to be used primarily for basketball. If built as planned, the arena would need to be retrofitted to accommodate the ice-making abilities the NHL requires for its franchises. For purposes of this analysis, it has not been assumed that the New York Islanders would relocate to the Barclays Center.
Brett Yormark did talk once or twice about preseason games or exhibition games at the arena, but until this week, the Nets' interest in the Islanders was very limited, at least publicly. Bob Sanna, the Forest City Ratner executive in charge of building Barclays Center was definitive last April, saying, "We made some pretty deliberate decisions early on: we weren't going to have a [professional] hockey team."
Now, with the Islanders in limbo, Yormark and others are letting people know the Nets' new Brooklyn home can indeed "host" the NHL, but are careful not to say they ready to welcome the Islanders, whose lease runs till 2015. Mikhail Prokhorov said he wasn't interested in buying any other sports teams "at this time". Brett Yormark was a little more subtle: "While we hope to explore hockey opportunities in the future, our primary focus at the moment is to build the best sports and entertainment venue in the world."
But IF they could make it work, moving the Islanders to Brooklyn would be a big boost for the arena on a number of levels and perhaps a lifesaver for Islander fans.
The first advantage for the Nets would be in filling the 225 dates they told bondholders they would book at Barclays. Brett Yormark told reporters recently that he and his people have booked 163 dates, not all of which they have identified. The 44 NHL regular season games would put the figure at at least 207 without any playoff dates for the Nets or Islanders. Filling in those last open dates would be a lot easier.
The Nets would also sell more sponsorships and charge a higher price. They might even get more money from the sports they have already corralled. The Devils organization got a big increase in sponsorship income when the Nets moved in. Under terms of that deal, the addition of an NBA team was an automatic trigger for a higher price tag. It's possible the Barclays deal also has such a kicker.
Most importantly, it would raise the status of Barclays to a new level, one that could really compete with the Garden, particularly with the Garden undergoing renovations. It would then be easier to book bigger, better, more revenue producing events not just for 2012-13 but long into the future.
For Islander fans, Brooklyn would indeed be a lifesaver. Right now, things are awful. As the hockey writer for the Montreal Gazette wrote this week:
The Islanders had the fourth-worst record in the NHL and the lowest attendance. Free agency and the entry draft allow teams to make dramatic turnarounds in the NHL but that’s not happening on Long Island because the team doesn’t have the money to turn things around. They will have the lowest payroll in the NHL and will have trouble reaching the salary-cap floor even with credit for more than $3 million in buyouts...
A move to Brooklyn won't solve all of that., but it should help attendance. All but one of the Long Island Railroad's 11 branches are a change-at-Jamaica away from the LIRR Atlantic Terminal/Barclays Center Transit Connection at the entrance to the Brooklyn arena. There isn't a train station within a mile of Nassau Coliseum. A fan who commutes to the city could hop on the subway after work, eat near the arena, watch the game and then take a train home. Can't do that at Nassau Coliseum.
And Islander fans would be going from the worst pro sports venue in North America to one of the best and certainly the newest. Might be worth the train ride.
There are diehards who would like to ignore Brooklyn and hope for the best in Nassau or build a new hockey-centric arena in Queens or even Suffolk. Ask any Nets fan about how long that takes, particularly when the primary site, Willets Point in Queens, is embroiled in its own eminent domain controversy. And who would finance it...in this economy, this political environment? A Queens arena is a pipe dream. Also, it should be noted that under the NHL's territorial rules, the Islanders can relocate anywhere on Long Island, and Brooklyn is the island's eastern tip.
As for that Nassau Colisuem lease that runs through 2015, leases can be bought out and broken. Prokhorov bought out the Nets lease at IZOD. Cost him $4 million but it worked.
By the way, ice-making is not an issue. It has always been a part of the arena plan, even the downsized plan. In fact, the top of the line and largest ice-making equipment available, from the NHL's preferred supplier, Cimco Refrigeration of Toronto, has already been installed. The actual ice rink is scheduled to be installed starting March 8 of next year and completed July 20. It's the absolutely last thing to be installed inside the arena. Moreover, the Nets have already booked both college hockey and Disney on Ice.
What Might Have Been
With the recent release of renderings of the Barclays Center and this week's discussion of the "Brooklyn Islanders", we thought we'd get nostalgic and take a look at what the interior of the arena would have looked like if the Nets had been able to stick with the original Frank Gehry design. The arena would have been 850,000 square feet in size rather than 675,000, the final number.
It's nowhere near as tight a bowl obviously, but there would have been no problem fitting an NHL team in the Gehry design. The problem was that the arena had become so expensive that investors thought it best to downsize so they could have an easier time getting the financing.
Let's not forget how tight things were back in late 2009. There was a December 31 deadline to get financing with federal guarantees, which were absolutely critical to the arena completion. Dan Goldstein boasted there was no way Ratner could reach that deadline and hearings were delayed. The arena's first post-Gehry design, unveiled in June, was being hammered by architecture critics. Prokhorov announced he was buying the team and part of the arena on September 23...but only as long as that deadline was met. The State Court of Appeals hearing on eminent domain took place October 14 and the decision came down on November 24. Bonds were authorized the same day as the decision. The bonds barely got investment grade ratings a week later on December 1, then were finally sold on December 15, leading to Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner finalizing their deal the next day. The master closing on the remaining Atlantic Yards properties took place December 23, only eight days before the deadline. If any of those things hadn't happened or had been delayed, who knows where the Nets would be. And throughout this period, the Nets were setting a record for consecutive losses at the beginning of the season.
Losing an opportunity to host the Islanders is not such a high price to pay...if indeed that is the case.
Our Own TV
While the Islanders are a prospective tenant at Barclays Center, Golden Boy Promotions, the boxing promoters, are confirmed. And this week, there was an article on what Golden Boy plans starting in September 2012: basically serious match of the month fights, which have been missing from the New York fight scene.
But buried in the story was an interesting line from fight agent Don Majewski. Described as "bubbling with ideas". Majewski compared the possibilities of TV coverage of the boxing bill and compared Barclays Center to Madison Square Garden.
"The Garden has the MSG network," said Majewski. "We can have our own TV, too."
That's not exactly the first time we have heard of a Barclays Center TV component. Brett Yormark has spoken about an in-house video operation called BCTV, which like Cisco's StadiumVision, will feed video to hundreds of monitors around the arena...and possibly even to the seats of some ticket holders. But is there more to it? A few weeks ago, we casually mentioned that in a report Jaclyn Sabol did for the Barclays Center website, she was identified in a graphic as being with "bc.tv". Next time we checked the piece, the reference to "bc.tv" had been removed. Try accessing www.bc.tv and this is what you get: "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access / on this server.".
We asked about bc.tv, but never heard back. We wonder what the secrecy is about. We also wonder why arbitration on the Nets dispute with YES Network on local TV rights is taking so long. Different story? Maybe.
Fix the Knicks
The last time we took note of James Dolan's singing, it was to promote true art.
Can never get enough of that! Nope.
Now, we read that James ("Don't Call Me Jim") Dolan's artistic offerings are once again in the news. Opening for Aretha Franklin on July 27, he (mis?)treated the crowd at Jones Beach Theatre on Long Island to a rendition of his new song, "Fix the Knicks". The Times described his performance as "karaoke-grade". This was not Sinatra's "New York, New York" or Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" or even John Travolta's solo album from the 70's (which may have set Brooklyn back 25 years).
No, this is its own genre: the rich kid's lament. "I may be rich," he seems to be saying, "but oh God, I try so hard". Never mind that a fellow owner once said of him: Dolan was born on third base and woke up thinking he had hit a triple. Don't take our word for it...here's his:
Everywhere I go
I hear everybody say
What you gonna do
to make that team play
Walk across the street
at 34th and 6th
Yelling from the cars, "hey man fix the Knicks"
Fix the Knicks
and make them shine
Get’em to win like its ’69
Hittin’ all their free throws and no more shooting bricks
Time to get it right
and fix the Knicks
Doing my best,
yes, that’s my promise
I check with my friends, call Isiah Thomas
Pay no mind to those nasty critics
They haven’t the thing to fix the Knicks
Know they’re getting Melo, we spare no expense
They score a lot of points, but where’s the defense
Everyone’s an expert
so trade your draft picks
You gotta get this guy
to fix the Knicks
This guy is the competition? Really?
Brooks at the Shore
MarShon Brooks, a Long Branch native, has been invited to a "Day of Unity" a week from Saturday, on August 13, at the city's Jerry Morgan Park. JJ Hoops in conjunction with the Long Branch Recreation Department, is sponsoring the event. A noon to 6:00 p.m.affair, it will have as its primary focus the children of the community.
Brooks, who grandmother still lives at the Shore, has indicated he will try to make the event and meet the fans if his schedule permits.
Don't expect any news this month on who the Nets will be naming head coach, assistant coach or trainer at the Springfield Armor. The Nets won't make an announcement until September and sources confirm they haven't yet decided who will get the jobs. The Armor coach last season,, wants to stay on.
Meanwhile, it seems likely that Milton Lee, director of basketball operations, and Jordan Cohn, the Nets scout who follows the D-League, will be running the Armor, but from East Rutherford, following the league model. And it is only 150 miles from the Nets training facility to Springfield.
Meanwhile, it's possible an Armor player or two could join Team USA for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in October. USA Basketball will choose its roster for the Pan Am games from the D-League under a new arrangement. The Armor's leading player last year, Scottie Reynolds, is currently tearing up the Philippine Basketball Association.
We're pretty much subscribe to Larry Coon's analysis of the lockout: that there's 10 per cent chance no games will be lost, 50% chance some will be lost and 40% chance the entire season will be lost. But we're not about to get excited about anything David Stern or Billy Hunter says right now. Stein feigning disinterest in players going overseas and Hunter saying he'd have to bet the season will be lost? It's pretty much theatre, the public part of the negotiations. Anyone involved in any public negotiation knows the media will seize on the worst case scenario and so both sides put out inflammatory language that gets repeated. It's August. We'll know in October and November how bad things are likely to get. Until then, remain calm.