It started not with any introductory message to fans, just a simple game summary, a blowout win over the Magic, the seventh straight for New Jersey.
The Nets shot a scorching 60%, including 14 of 18 in the 3rd quarter, to beat the McGrady-less Orlando Magic in East Rutherford. Interim head coach Lawrence Frank is now 6-0, winning each game by double-digits. He used a pre-game speech about World War II to keep the Nets motivated against the worst team in the league. Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin led the way with 18 points each. Kidd also dished out 13 assists while Martin overcame a migraine to pull down 15 rebounds.
There were 10 links to the boxscore and stories. That's how NetsDaily began, ten years ago this morning. It was the idea of John Schuhmann, then a video game designer and long-time Nets fan ... and yes, the same John Schuhmann who's now an NBA writer. He knew there was a rabid fan base in New Jersey and thought it would be fun. He was aided by a motley band of other Nets fans, with handles like ghoti and Petey and cpawfan and of course dumpy. A few months later, I joined and John left for David Stern's website.
News aggregation was and still is the staple of the blog, with links to beat and national writers' work, a forum and helpful information about schedules and promotions, etc. It wasn't that ambitious, just a place for fans to gather. And at that point, specifically that Wednesday, things looked good. New coach Lawrence Frank, still interim, was riding a wave of good will. Jason Kidd was daily flirting with a triple-double, Kenyon Martin was still a Net and eight days earlier, Bruce Ratner had won a competition to buy the team and move it to Brooklyn ... by 2006.
Over the years, the blog survived as the Nets did. Fans began to flock to the site, early on to see what the latest was on Martin's free agency, Kidd's knee and were shocked to hear Vince Carter had been traded to their team for an collection of trinkets and baubles. Covering Brooklyn real estate and eminent domain law became almost as big a deal as basketball and the collective bargaining agreement.
Things got worse. Ratner's losses mounted, as did opposition to the new arena. The team lost one star after the other, Kidd in February 2008, Richard Jefferson later that year, Carter in 2009. There were slivers of hope along the way, like the pick that produced Brook Lopez, but the trend was down, down, down. Still, despite that, and malware and a four-day system failure at the trade deadline, fans still came, to commiserate and hold out hope for the future, even as team employees were laid off or put on Friday furloughs. It would all be better in the new building, if that new building ever got started!
It looked like things were changing in September 2009 when a Russian oligarch whose name no one could pronounce or spell --and thus became forever "Prokhy"-- agreed to buy the team. He was "the most interesting man in the world" and the "richest sports owner in the world." But there were delays and during the wait the team hit bottom. Frank whose torrid start we had chronicled in our first week was fired as his fate reversed itself. A starting record of 0-18 became 12-70 ... and still the hearty came. If you came to NetsDaily during that season, you were a Nets fan forever.
As one fan, BattleNet, put it recently trying to explain what it was like, how his fascination with the community of fans mystified friends and even his significant other: "Uniformly, people are stunned to discover that someone could not only learn to give half a doodly damn about a New Jersey Nets blog, but then, to go on to care so deeply about that blog that it might alter the trajectory of an otherwise harmonious relationship seems absurd." But he stayed.
By 2010, there was a new management team in place and a new owner willing to spend money. The Barclays Center was finally underway. Jay-Z was proud again. After a MeloDrama ended in failure (leading to existential crises in the forums and at dinner tables), the Nets blew everyone away shortly after breakfast the next day with the trade for Deron Williams. Love him or hate him now, D-Will's arrival symbolized something -- the re-birth, a grand community spirit. Oh yes, there was the 1:06 a.m. WojWatch, Dwightmare I, II, III and IV (but who's counting...we were) and other disappointments, but in the fans' comments there was something in the air, an anticipation of renewal.
Brooklyn cemented that feeling of renaissance. Last season's overtime win over the Knicks produced one of the franchise's great moments: a chanting, snaking crowd filling the arena from the upper bowl to the subway platform with one elongated word, "Broooook -lyn" Some of us were in tears. We weren't just back. We were Brooklyn! The rejoicing continued on the site as fans who weren't there wanted to know everything about it and those who were there were only happy to tell them.
This season, of course, has been a roller coaster with some hope, some hype and a lot of disappointment followed by a sense of possibility. It's not done. That chapter has to be written.
The NetsDaily fan base has changed in 10 years. Like ownership, it became more international, with people from Bosnia, the Philippines, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, Ireland, among others joining up. It became more Brooklyn than Bergen County, too with 11 percent of fans walking or biking to games and almost half taking the subway to a new stop, Barclays Center. We've changed too. NetsDaily now has writers and analysts, photographers and videographers and is part of a conglomerate of blogs, SB Nation, giving it breadth and depth. We cover more than games. It is, as we say, "The most comprehensive source for news about the Brooklyn Nets."
No matter where the fans come from, it's been our pleasure to inform and analyze. NetsDaily is all about the fans and as we celebrate these 10 years together, we offer our appreciate that nearly 20,000 of you have signed up as registered users, and that more than 12,000 now follow us on Twitter.
For me, personally, it's been, shall we say, interesting. I joined the site in 2005, saying I'd fill in for a couple of weeks while John Schuhmann attended to a new child, then went to work for NBA.com later that year Long two weeks! I'm a newsman by trade and so I've tried to apply the same skills to the task, and tried, but admittedly only tried, to be objective. I'm a fan, too, after all, and I'm intensively proud we're still on this journey ten years later Not a lot of sports blogs can survive for a decade.
So, to my fellow fans, I say thanks for having faith in us over these years. And to all those, from John Schuhmann to Tom Lorenzo, who have worked so hard to stay on top of the latest news, provide analysis and looks ahead and behind, produce video and stills, I say thank you as well. Finally, to people like Irina Pavlova, who has helped so many of our fans from far away get so close to the team they love, and to Ellen Pinchuk, Prokhorov's press spokesman, and to Gary Sussman, Barry Baum, Aaron Harris, et al, the Nets PR team, we offer our gratitude for kindnesses, great and small. Thanks as well to our patient spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends.
So here's to another 10 years ... and a parade or two along Flatbush!