Nets Fans, Players Excited for Fresh Start in Newark
October 27, 2010
NEWARK, N.J.—It wasn’t just another opening night for the Nets on Wednesday – this one had a little bit different look to it.
The Nets hosted the Detroit Pistons at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. to open their 2010-11 season. "The Rock" (as the arena is also known) will serve as the team’s temporary home for the next two seasons, ahead of an eventual move to Brooklyn, N.Y., scheduled for 2012. They will share the venue mainly with the New Jersey Devils, as well as Seton Hall basketball and the WNBA's New York Liberty.
“We’re not looking two years down the line, we’re worried about today,” said Nets guard Anthony Morrow, following a 101-98 win. “While we’re here, we’re going to worry about playing as hard as we can for each other and for the fans.”
The 15,176 fans in attendance were welcomed by many familiarities from their team’s former abode, East Rutherford's IZOD Center. The same ABA championship banners and retired numbers hung crisply from rafters, and the court’s only paint change, the arena name.
“It feels like the Nets made an effort to carry over a lot of the pieces from their old arena,” said Nets fan Kevin Higgins, who has been coming to games since 1993. “It makes me feel at home.”
The Nets spent 29 years at the IZOD Center, just more than seven miles down Route 21. For the immediate future, however, the players will make memories for the Nets’ faithful in a new building.
“It’s incredible,” said guard Jordan Farmar. “Everything here is new, and we’re all trying to create a new wave of basketball for now and in the future.”
It’s obvious that Nets players and fans are both looking forward to what’s to come in Newark over the next two seasons. Yet for 18-year season-ticket-holder Frank Parise of Clifton, the old memories can’t be replaced.
“I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs over the years,” Parise said. “Going to the Finals in 2003 is definitely one of the biggest.”
At the Rock, Parise and other season-ticket holders get a VIP card, which entitles them to enter the arena 30 minutes earlier than the general public. Once inside, they can stroll the baseline during shoot around to take pictures, get autographs and watch their favorite Nets players warm-up from just a few feet – sometimes inches – away. Reservations at the Acela Club restaurant are an additional perk exclusive to season-ticket holders.
“It’s a more fan friendly atmosphere,” Parise said of his initial experience.
Children will also enjoy their time at the Rock, especially while visiting Kid’s Country. Nets mascot Sly will make numerous appearances there throughout games, and kids will be eligible for special giveaways.
But Nets fans aren’t the only ones who are excited about the new location. New York City resident Gunner Arnson is a self proclaimed Pistons fan. For Arnson, getting to the Prudential Center has been made much easier thanks to public transportation, including the PATH.
“I’d definitely come back,” Arnson said. “It’s a nice arena and the public transportation option is also a plus.”
The NBA is committed to promoting NBA basketball in Newark. Prior to Wednesday’s game, commissioner David Stern announced the league’s annual Draft would also take place at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2010. The event had been held at New York's Madison Square Garden for the previous 10 years.
“We thought that with the Nets coming here, and with the excitement that’s going to be generated in Newark, it was really a good time to move the Draft here,” Stern said.
The Commissioner wasn’t the only high-profile guest in attendance on Wednesday. Majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, minority owner/hip-hop legend Jay-Z, his wife/R&B superstar Beyonce, rapper Master P, dance artist Robin S. and Newark mayor Cory Booker were among those taking in the first night of action.
“NBA basketball is making history right here in Newark,” Booker said. “For that, I am grateful.”
Wednesday was just Day One for the Nets and their fans in the town over which Booker presides. It couldn’t have started off any better.
“Nothing is really perfect,” said Nets coach Avery Johnson. “But this was a beautiful ending.”