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Building a Brand in Long Island, but playing in Brooklyn first

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We’ve written quite a bit about the basketball advantages the Nets have in basing their D-League team in Brooklyn this season: the parent club and affiliate play in the same venue, Barclays Center; practice at the same facility: HSS Training Center, and under the guidance of the same front office.

But that’s only going to last for one season, Starting in 2017-18, the Long Island Nets will be an anchor tenant at the renovated Nassau Coliseum, also owned by Mikhail Prokhorov’s Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, and presumably practice somewhere closer to Uniondale than Brooklyn.

Alton Byrd manages the business side for the Long Island team as vice president for business operations. He’s uniquely qualified: he starred for four years at Columbia, was British basketball for nearly two decades as a point guard on the national team and a coach. He has had a career in sports management since, his last stop with the Atlanta Dream of WNBA.

So he knows what his mission is. While part of it is standing up the Long Island Nets, another part of it is using the D-League team to extend the Brooklyn brand to the Island, long a bastion of Knicks fandom.

“My focus this year is to build the brand as its inaugural season here in Brooklyn, deliver a little bit of a fan base, closely align ourselves with the Brooklyn Nets,” Byrd told Neil Best of Newsday. “Seeding and building a fan base on Long Island at the same time.”

The connection is everywhere. The team will broadcast all its games on WRHU, Hofstra’s student radio station, and will televise them on Facebook Live with News 12 Long Island’s Kevin Dexter handling the call at home.

But for all the push in Nassau and Suffolk, Byrd has to deal with Brooklyn this season, marketing a team that will play its games on odd hours.

As Best writes...

The most glaring quirk on this season’s schedule is that all 24 home games are scheduled for the afternoon, most often before a game that night for the Brooklyn Nets, the team’s NBA partner.

That includes not only weekend and holiday afternoons, but even afternoons on regular work and school days. That is unusual, to say the least.

In fact, 22 of the Long Island club’s 24 home games will take place on the same day as Brooklyn plays. Only one of those 22 will take place after a Nets games. Wednesday will be the first of the “double-headers,” with the Long Island Nets playing the Canton Charge at 1:30 and the Brooklyn Nets playing the Celtics at 7:30. And no, there will no ticket packages, but the prices for the D-League team will be, to say the least, reasonable.

General admission seats at $15, group tickets for $10 apiece and premium, courtside seats at $50. Season tickets also are available.

“There’s an opportunity for schools, there’s an opportunity for colleges, there’s an opportunity for folks who may do shift work to come to a game at 1:30 or noon or 2 o’clock,” Byrd said.

Next year, of course, will be different. The Long Island team will play on Long Island, at night, hopefully Byrd says, not on the same night as the parent club.