While there were relatively few leaks of marquee matchups from the 2012-13 NBA schedule before the league made its grand unveiling of the full year's slate on Thursday night, we did already have one game penciled into the calendar, thanks to Newsday's Al Iannazzone — the Nov. 1, 2012, tilt between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets in what will be not only the first game of the season for each squad, but also the first regular-season game played at Brooklyn's new home, the Barclays Center. Like many other league observers, Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears tabbed the Thursday night TNT tilt as one of his 10 games to watch from a first-blush look at the schedule, and it's not hard to see why.
Setting aside the big-picture stuff — the long-awaited debut of Brooklyn's first big-league sports franchise (sorry, Cyclones) since the Dodgers moved west in 1957, the unveiling of the roster resulting from the Fort Knox outlay by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to upgrade Brooklyn's roster from laughingstock to postseason contender, the never-ending off-brand Barnum and Bailey's show that is Your New York Knickerbockers, etc. — you've also got the intriguing question of what the crowd at Barclays Center (most of whom will likely be rooting for the home team, but many of whom might not) will look and, more importantly, sound like. Plus, we'll get to see Deron Williams take another shot at taking apart popular Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, because that thing you all think happened didn't really happen, haha, funny joke, James Dolan, good one, oh jeezum crud, let's just move on.
Anyway, the Nets-Knicks season opener is still more than three months away, but as with all things New York, it's never too early to start building a game between two likely middle-of-the-conference-playoff-bracket squads into something EPIC. The Nets got off to a good start with that on Friday, setting up a neat little online treat for visitors to the Nets' website — an autoplay audio greeting courtesy of TNT announcer Marv Albert, the Brooklyn-born NBA broadcasting legend who was the longtime voice of the Knicks and more recently served as the lead play-by-play man on Nets broadcasts.
We'd love to embed the crackly radio-days goodness of it here, but we can't, so you can listen at the link above, or check out our transcription of Marvelous' remarks:
Live, from Brooklyn, N.Y., it is Opening Night for the Brooklyn Nets at the spectacular new Barclays Center! This is Marv Albert, welcoming a world-wide audience on TNT, and the sold-out crowd here is electric, ready to see All-Star point guard Deron Williams lead the Brooklyn Nets against the New York Knicks.
They'll be talking about this night for years to come as one of the biggest events in New York sports' illustrious history. The return of major professional sports to the borough is what Brooklynites have been dreaming about since the Dodgers broke their hearts and moved to L.A. in 1957.
It was for moments like this that the Nets were determined to re-sign Deron Williams. But Brooklyn is back in the big leagues, and a "Who's Who?" of Brooklyn sits courtside, including Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand, among others.
We're about to tip off this historic event. The Nets vs. the Knicks — "Brooklyn's Backcourt" of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson against Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. A capacity crowd for opening night at Barclays Center. Hello Brooklyn!
First off: More Marv Albert doing anything, please, even if it sounds like he's coming to us live through a distorted microphone patched into tinny late-'80s Hyundai Excel speakers. Even if this is just one of 82 and not really all that big a moment for the NBA At Large, it's a really big New York moment, so having the voice of New York basketball there on the call for the front-end of the TNT doubleheader just feels right. It puts the stamp of local sports history on the proceedings. (Having him tag it with the Nets' new Beasties-inspired catchphrase leaves the film of cheap commerce on things a bit, but hey: We will overlook certain things for Marv.)
Second: About that capacity crowd. There's been some discussion of the prospect of Nets fans being overrun in their own gym by Knicks fans, leading folks like Nets beat man Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News to consider the Chicken Little scenario of the Nets being horrendously embarrassed on national television by having their lineup booed and their opposition cheered in their big debut.
This strikes me as somewhat overblown — sure, there will be loud Knicks fans in attendance, but there's really no such thing as a quiet Knicks fan, but I can't imagine the Nets organization allowing the ratios to get ludicrously out of hand on such a big night. This just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would be left to chance by an owner who has committed to paying more than $1 billion over the course of the last several years for an 80 percent stake in the team, a 45 percent stake in a new arena, a completely revamped roster and much more. (Like you couldn't see Mikhail Prokhorov just straight-up buying out all those secondary-market tickets reportedly out there. He's a man made of gold, and smirks, and fear.)
Brooklyn, N.Y., Borough President Marty Markowitz most certainly thinks such fears are overblown. The eager-to-stoke-a-rivalry local politician says supporters of the "Manhattan Knicks" will pale in comparison to the "Brooklyn swagger" of Nets backers.
"I'm thrilled that fans won't have to wait long for our Brooklyn Nets to take the floor against the Manhattan Knicks, and kudos to the NBA for scheduling their first matchup on November 1 in the true home of NBA basketball in New York City — Brooklyn's spectacular new Barclays Center," Markowitz said in a statement. "Between the two teams there will certainly be lots of excitement and star power in the house that night, and no doubt the arena will be filled to the 'rim' with Nets fans and their Brooklyn swagger drowning out the desperate cheers of the few Knicks faithful brave enough to venture into enemy territory. You know who I'll be rooting for, so move over Knicks — you may have a 'Kidd' but now you have to play the big boys! And it won't be long before a championship banner so elusive for the Knicks over the past forty years will be hanging in its rightful place from the rafters at Barclays Center."
If the "Kidd" remark left you scratching your head — hey, didn't the New Jersey version of the Nets employ Jason Kidd for, I don't know, like 6 1/2 years? — you're not alone. The willful turn away from the New Jersey past is part of the all-Brooklyn-all-the-time rebranding; I mean, if Markowitz let on that he was even aware of the organization's historical record, he'd have a tough time forming his mouth to say that the rafters at a Nets arena is the "rightful place" for anything but roof support. But hey, he's doing it in service of making fun of the Knicks, a franchise that has proven pretty definitively over the course of the last dozen years — to say nothing of the 28 before them that passed without an NBA title, as Markowitz notes — that they're ripe for mockery. (I mean, you saw those luxury tax numbers, right?)
Again, I think we will eventually come to view as ridiculous the amount of bluster and braggadocio associated with a November game between two teams that, as presently constituted, seem unlikely to rise past the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But occasions like this give loud people an excuse to get preemptively mad at one another, and begin claiming that their dads could beat up other kids' dads. So long as Marv's calling the punches, I can live with it.