It was a typical Nets moment from the last few years. Rookie Nicolas Claxton had just taken a high-arching pass from David Nwaba and slammed it down. Claxton, filled with bug-eyed excitement, spread his arms and ran up court. At the other end, the Nets bench was standing and cheering, responding as one, laughing and enjoying the moment.
There was no dancing ... yet. That may come later. But it was a signal: the culture has survived despite all the changes. It was not a surprise to Joe Harris, who’s been with the team since nearly Day 1 of the rebuild. Harris has seen the unique culture of Brooklyn established. To Harris, that culture was built around similar personalities throughout the years.
So, he sees no change in culture, despite the addition of eight new Nets, including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving plus a new owner in Joe Tsai and a new CEO in David Levy.
“Yeah, I would agree with that.” Harris said when asked if the culture survives all the change. “It seems like all the people Sean and Kenny have surrounded themselves with are cut with the same cloth and as it changed with the new CEO with new ownership, everybody really very similar personality wise, very brought in to what has been established here.”
The feeling was reinforced on Saturday when the Nets held their third annual Practice in the Park at Brooklyn Bridge Park, treating 3,000 fans to an afternoon of fun, with Nets players, including KD and Kyrie as well as Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks tossing t-shirts, basketballs and other gear into the stands and showing off their skills ... and new uniforms.
Harris loved it all, remarked on the increasing fan excitement.
“Kyrie lives in the neighborhood,” Harris said. “When we were lining up, we talked about how cool this is and how many people come out and support. It’s great energy, a great vibe, and it’s cool to be in the midst of all of it.”
Garrett Temple, one of the newest Nets players, was amazed by the turnout and the vibe of the practice. He hopes the vibe felt at the practice foreshadows what is to come this season.
“It’s amazing man,” said Temple who’s played for nine teams in 10 years. “The environment, I’ve had a bunch of fan engagements during practices and preseason but this is easily the most impressive being able to have Brooklyn on one side and Manhattan on the other. Just being able to be here we had a great day and a great crowd. Hopefully this foreshadows a great season.”
“It really talks about what Brooklyn is,” Temple said, referring to borough. “You know, I live near enough here to be able to walk to this park and I’ve been here a few times to watch people hoop, walk with my dog, and it’s just so genuine. Just playing basketball outside, this is where a lot of us started playing, especially on a blacktop outside...
“No other franchise comes outside and plays on the court fans themselves play on.”
Temple said he’s never seen an NBA franchise do an event like Practice in the Park and can see what kind of community Brooklyn is. He is proud to represent Brooklyn.
“No question,” Temple said. “I visited New York City a lot. Never lived here. Manhattan is what it is, crazy hustle bustle. I’m from Louisiana and I’m a down south boy and like that little slower [environment] and to know Brooklyn has that area of slower pace if you want that so it’s something I enjoy but you can still see that beautiful skyline. This area is amazing. Being able to see Manhattan, be on the water, and I’m excited to play for the Brooklyn Nets because you can see what type of community it is.”
The NBA veteran has watched the culture build in the Brooklyn Nets, dating back to three years ago. He believes the Nets organization was built around players and coaches who played with a “chip on their shoulder.”
In addition, Temple loves how most of the players were given an opportunity they never had before then proving their worth. That whole mix, on top of their superstar additions, Temple believes that this team has the ability to build something special. He added that what he’s seen so far doesn’t surprise him.
“It’s honestly what I expected,” Temple told NetsDaily. “Playing against these guys the past two and three years, especially the last two years, it was always a tough outing. It’s a grind team that plays with a chip on their shoulder.
“You can understand the players that they had and a few of them had to play in the G League or did not get the chance with the team they were with before. You know, Kenny was a player development coach so he had something to prove so it seemed like a lot of guys had something to prove. To have a team like that, you play with a certain oomph and you know that’s what the vibe you get in Brooklyn in general.
“Again, that’s the reason we are outside playing in front of the fans and because of that, that is a great foundation to build something special.”
On Sunday, the Nets will fly out of New York on their way to games in Shanghai and Shenzhen on the other side of the globe. Marks believes that despite the rigors of the week away, it will be a great bonding experience for the team.
Harris said the team may be away, but the excitement of the fans in the park resonates.
“It’s awesome, too, because they’re the ones that are really bringing all this energy. It’s cool to see the impact that they have and also to be enjoying it with your teammates and the community and the borough.”
Preserving —and improving upon the Nets culture is going to be a season-long effort. But a preseason game and an open practice in front of 3,000 fans on a court that fans themselves play on is a good start.