The Association Says 'Hello, Brooklyn'

Brooklyn residents are characters. Brooklyn itself has character. And on this season of The Association, Brooklyn is a character.

That much was evident in the season premiere of The Association: Brooklyn Nets, which debuted Tuesday night on NBA TV. The fourth edition of the season-long documentary series said “Hello, Brooklyn!” in a big way throughout the episode’s 22-minute run time.

The camera crews canvassed the borough for backdrops, from the streetball scene at Gersh Park in East New York to the Coney Island Boardwalk and Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, from Junior’s on toward Clinton Hill. And from the opening a capella by Fabolous, it’s also clear they tapped into the borough’s rich talent pool when finding voices, with Brooklyn native Michael K. Williams narrating and actress Rosie Perez notably playing a prominent role.

“There’s nothing like Brooklyn swagger,” Williams says to the camera. “People stop me in the street and say, ‘Where you from?’ I don’t say I’m from New York – I say, ‘I’m from Brooklyn!’”

After setting the stage with a run through Brooklyn’s culture and sports history, the focus shifted to the construction of this year’s team, beginning with the July free agency period. General Manager Billy King discussed his ongoing dialogue with point guard Deron Williams, who eventually re-signed with the Nets, notably pointing to a moment during excruciating, ultimately unfruitful trade talks for All-NBA center Dwight Howard when Williams told him not to wait on building a team.

The clinching moment seems to have come when King acquired six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Hawks, a deal consummated upon congratulating former college teammate Danny Ferry for his new gig as Atlanta GM. In a 24-hour Twitter-driven NBA news cycle, King set out to show Deron exactly how seriously he was ready to move forward.

“The first thing I said was, ‘I want you to know we have Joe Johnson done.’” King says in an interview. “And Deron goes, ‘I haven’t heard anything about that.’ I said, ‘Exactly. ’Cause I wanted you to know first.’”

The second half of the episode focuses on the two Johnsons: coach Avery and shooting guard Joe. The Association first reviews Avery’s own underdog journey through the NBA, which culminated in a championship with the Spurs in 1999, and moves on to his coaching career and the pressure that has come with heightened expectations.

Joe gets taken on a tour through Fort Greene by Bushwick native Perez, who’s determined to get him familiar with the fan base. Johnson gamely chats up some young fans, but the “Lifelong Razorback” from Little Rock, Ark. remains in transition when it comes to the Brooklyn vibe.

“I said, ‘My goodness, you talk slow as (heck),’” Perez says of Johnson. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, you say whatever comes to your mind.’ I go, ‘Welcome to Brooklyn – get used to it!’”

The episode closes with two former Brooklyn Dodgers, Ralph Branca and Brooklyn native Joe Pignatano, visiting MCU Park in Coney Island, home of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones. They wax nostalgic about playing in Brooklyn and their connection to the community, and their belief that the fan base will embrace the new team.

Prepared to earn the respect of the borough they now call home, the Nets are just weeks away from opening their season schedule against their East River rival, the New York Knicks. And The Association will be there every step of the way.

“I think it’ll be a good behind-the-scenes look at what we do,” Avery Johnson said. “Other franchises like the Celtics and Lakers have been on. If it’s good for them, then it’s good for us.”

Upcoming episodes of The Association: Brooklyn Nets will air on NBA TV November 2, 9, 16 and 30 at 6:30 p.m. ET. More will be announced as the season continues.

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