The plan started with former majority owner of the New Jersey Nets, Bruce Ratner, riling up the citizens of Brooklyn, NY with an eminent domain land grab of the Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights. Scheduled to open in 2011, the relocation of the Nets would have to wait until the 2012-13 season due to a lawsuit filed by local residents in protest of the use of the land. Therefore, even before we speak about the basketball product the Nets will put out on the floor, there was resistance to the move. The allocation of public funds for a team without proven support seriously angered current and former Brooklynites, including me.
Enter Prokhorov and what he allowed people to do. Besides providing easy puns for the team such as Nyets due to his Russian heritage, Prokhorov temporarily brought a sense of excitement for Nets fans. He made elaborate pitches to LeBron James in free agency but all the pomp and presentation did not pay off, as he "took his talents to South Beach." The beginning of a potential chain of disappointment started there. During the season, the Nets tried to acquire Carmelo Anthony only to have the Knicks tie a package together for the five-time all star.
In a show of force trying to make a statement of a commitment to winning, Prokhorov authorized GM Billy King to swing a deal for potential hall of fame point guard Deron Williams. Mortgaging their future, the Nets gave away two first round draft picks, a rookie with potential in Derrick Favors, and their former point guard Devin Harris. The deal would have been great, if not for one serious hitch: Deron Williams' contract expires right before the Nets start playing in Brooklyn.
The Nets are now desperate to improve their team and avoid losing Deron Williams to free agency. Coming to Brooklyn without Williams would be devastating to the franchise, validating the lawsuit's worries. The Nets are trying to trade for Dwight Howard in order to provide a second star for Williams to play with. The question is, whom can they trade for him? Brook Lopez, who couldn't rebound if he was in a dive bar at 2 a.m. after a breakup, and any combination of their glorified D-League players (Except Brooks and Humphries, who both look like legitimate players, though still not compelling trade pieces).
Even though the Knicks had a decade of losing, dysfunction, and embarrassment, they are still New York's team. Madison Square Garden still sold out on a nightly basis, despite the fact that fans paid to see Othella Harrington, Mardy Collins, and Eddy Curry dribble and shoot a ball. The Knicks are on the rise, while the Nets sit in purgatory waiting for a road to open, unsure if it will lead them to sports heaven or hell.
So, when Williams bolts for Dallas in the summer, and the Nets come to Brooklyn bearing banners with Mr. Kardashian, there is one bit of comfort for Brooklynites. Maybe the trains that were sitting in Atlantic Yards will be put to use and fans can ride the subway quicker to Penn Station to see a real basketball game.