Who they are:
New York City’s younger pro basketball team, formerly of the ABA and with distinguished alumni like Julius Erving. They moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn six years back, embracing sleek black-and-white uniforms and a logo designed by former part-owner Jay-Z.
What’s going on:
Quietly last season, especially in the second half, the Nets rose from the dead after a long period of struggle. While the team’s overall record was unimpressive, coach Kenny Atkinson’s young squad became a source of fascination for fans of fast-paced hoops. As the team prepares to face the Knicks in the home opener on October 19, it’s clear there’s something brewing in Brooklyn—beyond the imperial IPAs and kombucha.
“We’re trying to build a winning culture of basketball, one that isn’t selfish, where every player has to perform,” says DeMarre Carroll, 32, a nine-year veteran forward entering his second season with the Nets. “We have a lot of depth and guys who have strong roles, so things look good.”
The NBA is a superstar-driven league. The Nets don’t have one; to compensate, the team utilizes a full-throttle spread-the-ball-around approach. In 2017–18, the Nets were in the top 10 in team assists per game, and seven regulars averaged double-digit points—none higher than 15.5 a game. The Nets were also sixth in the NBA in pace (meaning the number of possessions per game) and second in three-point attempts per game (behind only the Rockets, who set an all-time mark), which can be explained mathematically as Run + Gun = Fun.
“There’s going to be even more energy than last year,” says Jarrett Allen, 20, a second-year center. “We’re not where we want to be yet, but we feel we’re becoming a staple in Brooklyn and I promise it’s going to be enjoyable watching us work hard.”
There is definitely enthusiasm among the players about the upcoming Nets season. The question is how optimistic fans should be. The “p-word” has been whispered, not shouted, but are the playoffs too much to expect from an emerging team? Last year, the Nets added eight victories to their previous season’s win total. The preseason prediction from FiveThirtyEight is that the Nets will win 35 games this year, which gives them a 37 percent chance of playing in the postseason—and would represent another decent bump in their win total. The chance to see a team on the rise, combined with the Nets aesthetically pleasing style of play, is reason enough to check out a game. The team won’t be backing off the bombs-away approach, so there should be a lot of exciting basketball at Barclays this season.
Almost every Nets player lives in Brooklyn—at media day, newcomer Jared Dudley asked not to be looked at funny for living in Manhattan—and they rave about being part of the community.
“We definitely don’t take playing in Brooklyn for granted. The atmosphere is unbelievable regardless of where we might be sitting in the standings,” says Joe Harris, 27, a sharpshooting guard. “We’re invested in Brooklyn, fans recognize that and I feel like they have a relatability with us as players.”
Considering most of the team can walk, bike or subway to home games, there are, naturally recommendations—ranging from Harris’ broad “eat your way through the borough and hang out in Prospect Park” to Allen’s specific “go to La Villa Pizzeria, on [Park Slope’s] Fifth Avenue.” For the longest-tenured Net, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 23, the wise old man entering his fourth season, it’s deeper than the waterfront views in his beloved Dumbo.
“It feels great to walk through Brooklyn and get love and support,” he says, adding that everyone should “take their kids to the coolest merry-go-round in the City.”
Five under-the-radar games to see this season:
You want to head out to Barclays to see the Warrior juggernaut, LeBron’s new-look Lakers or the full-strength Kyrie Irving–led Celtics? Guess what, so does everyone else. Here are five other Nets home games to check out.
Shake off that gravy hangover for this noon tip-off the day after Thanksgiving. The T-Wolves’ four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler may be on the court (we’re just not sure in which uniform); if not, settle for seeing young franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Suns play at an even faster pace than the Nets, and their guard Devin Booker scored 70 points in a 2017 game. This will be a track meet, and the winner might top 150.
The Kings are probably the most anonymous team in the NBA. However, this is a 3:30pm start on Martin Luther King Jr Day; the tributes will be bigger than basketball.
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo a household name yet? The 6’11” “Greek Freak” is doing things on the court previously only seen in video games. Go now, before he reaches LeBron-level resale ticket prices.
This Mavs team is Hemingwayesque; call it “The Old Man and the Rookie.” German Dirk Nowitzki, now 40, will pair with half-his-age Slovenian Luka Doncic, one of the most highly touted international prospects in NBA history. See them on the court together while you can, because Dirk can’t play forever...we think.