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The 2010s: Hello Brooklyn

The Nets wrap up 35 years in New Jersey and head for Barclays Center

At the start of a new decade, the Nets took the first steps toward a new era.

They left their longtime home in the Meadowlands for Newark’s Prudential Center, but that was just a two-year stopover as they awaited the completion of their brand-new arena in Brooklyn. Along the way, two blockbuster deals formed the foundation for the team that would debut at Barclays Center in 2012.

In February 2011, the Nets acquired two-time All-NBA point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz. In his first full season with the franchise the next year, Williams averaged 21.0 points and 8.7 assists and made his third straight All-Star Game appearance. On April 23, 2012, the Nets closed out their 35-year run in New Jersey with their final home game in the state.

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Two months later, the Nets acquired six-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson, putting a premier backcourt in place when the Brooklyn Nets made their debut at Barclays Center with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 3, 2012.

A month later, Johnson drained a buzzer-beating jumper to edge the Pistons in double-overtime, the first of five he would hit in four seasons with the Nets, building a legend for clutch finishes.

After the Nets closed their first season in Brooklyn with their first playoff appearance since 2007 — finishing the season with a 35-19 run after P.J. Carlesimo replaced Avery Johnson as coach in December and finishing 49-33 to match the second-best NBA record in franchise history — more big moves were in the offing. The team dealt a slew of draft picks to the Boston Celtics for a package of players headlined by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and Nets legend Jason Kidd was hired as head coach.

They returned to the playoffs and won their first playoff series since 2007 before being defeated by the eventual champion Miami Heat in the second round, but after the season both Kidd and Pierce departed. Midway through the next season, Garnett was dealt away as well.

The first stage in Brooklyn featured All-Star Game appearances by Brook Lopez in 2013 and Johnson in 2014 and three straight playoff appearances, but the bottom soon dropped out as the Nets went 21-61 in 2015-16, the first of three straight 20-something win seasons.

The first seeds of a resurgence came in February 2016 with the opening of the HSS Training Center, bringing the team’s basketball operations to Brooklyn in their entirety, and the hiring of GM Sean Marks. Two months later, Marks hired Kenny Atkinson as the team’s head coach.

They built the foundation of a playoff team with heady free agent signings — Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie — and savvy late draft picks — Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. With guard D’Angelo Russell putting together an All-Star season in 2018-19, the Nets went from 20 wins in Atkinson’s first season to 42 in his third, returning to the playoffs.

The quick turnaround attracted attention throughout the league, and the Nets followed up by signing three All-NBA players — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan — to set the stage for the next step.

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