But there’s also great anticipation for me, anyway, in going to Brooklyn for the first time to play the Nets since they’ve moved from New Jersey and to see what the atmosphere will be like in their new arena, Barclays Centers.
I go back to the Brooklyn Dodgers when I was very young and I always felt bad for Brooklynites when the Dodgers went west. They have such an interesting identity. You can ask Vinnie Johnson. As much as they love being from New York, it’s not quite as strongly as they feel about being from Brooklyn – that comes first. So they get a team back and for nostalgic reasons alone, that’s a wonderful thing.
And New York gets another team right smack dab in the middle of the greatest market in the world for pro sports and for basketball. It’s going to set up a rivalry that will be much, much more important to our league than the Knicks in Manhattan and the Nets in New Jersey, no disrespect to New Jersey intended, because they had some great teams and the Pistons were involved with some great games over the years. But this will make more impact around the league and around the world.
The 2004 playoff series between the Nets and Pistons had historic importance. That group of Pistons – the Goin’ to Work bunch – went on to win an NBA title, but they were in deep trouble in that series.
After losing in a great game – a triple-overtime game at The Palace despite the great mid-court triple by Chauncey Billups – they still had to go to New Jersey and win to have a chance to come back and play another game at The Palace. To fall behind in Game 6 like they did and battle back to win it, behind some Rip Hamilton heroics, I thought set the stage for one of the great Pistons teams to show that they could become NBA champions. You don’t get to the Finals and play the Lakers unless you come back and win that series.
This was a Nets team that had played in the Finals in both ’02 and ’03 and beat up on the Pistons in the conference finals in ’03. Those Pistons didn’t have Rasheed Wallace yet, of course, but it was still a pretty darn good team. That was a terrific win. It was very, very exciting to be there and be a small part of it as a broadcaster.
Another element of the shared history of the Pistons and the Nets, of course, is Lawrence Frank, which shows you what kind of NBA experience he has and that he knows what it takes for a team to be at the elite level. We’re confident that this staff and their vision for the Pistons is what we need.
Some of the relocations around the league kind of make you wonder how they’ll work when they are first announced, but when you talk about the Nets and you remember that they won ABA titles in 1974 and ’76 as the New York Nets when they were playing in Long Island and featured Dr. J and were coached by a former TV broadcast partner of mine in Kevin Loughery, you realize they’ve been part of the New York metropolitan landscape forever.
It’s just a matter of getting them in exactly the right place. Maybe Long Island wasn’t it and maybe New Jersey wasn’t quite the right place. I believe Brooklyn is exactly the right place and that rivalry between the Nets and Knicks is going to be off the charts over the years. It’s already a great rivalry in year one. It’s going to be another fun night of NBA basketball on Friday when the Pistons make their first trip to Brooklyn.