BROOKLYN – It’s been eight years since Bruce Ratner bought the New Jersey Nets with plans to move them to Brooklyn. Eight years of lame-duck status in the Garden State, with the last few being particularly ugly in terms of the basketball product.
But now, the Nets have just four more games in the state they’ve called home for the last 35 seasons. At the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, Barclays Center will be completed in September.
On Tuesday, with Ratner at his side, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov toured his new arena for the first time in over a year. And then met with the media, saying “I’m sure it will be the best arena in the world.”
There’s no question that the move to Brooklyn will usher in a brand new era for the Nets. But there are plenty of questions regarding the players who will wear “Brooklyn” on their chest. And the questions start with point guard Deron Williams, who has promised to exercise the early termination option in his contract and become a free agent this summer. Prokhorov said he met with Williams on Monday.
“We have, I think, a very good discussion,” Prokhorov said. “He really wants to win. And I want to win maybe even more.
“I think [at] this stage, we’re on the same page.”
The question is how quickly the Nets can become a winning team in Brooklyn. When he bought the team in 2010, Prokhorov promised Nets fans a championship within five years. And after a fifth straight season out of the playoffs, a title doesn’t seem to be the horizon.
“The Nets, like the arena, is still under construction, still in the building stage,” Prokhorov said. “And I will keep my prediction on the championship. So I’ll do my best, together with my friends, together with my partners, and we will make the Brooklyn Nets the champion of the NBA. I am very committed to this.”
If Dwight Howard didn’t change his mind that one last time before the trade deadline, the Nets’ future might be a lot brighter. And despite Howard’s decision, Prokhorov made it sound like he still wants to go the superstar route in building his team, saying, “I think every owner wants to have a great player.”
“We need to be really, very patient, because it is easy to have a good team, a playoff team,” he said. “And it’s very difficult to make a championship team. So we need to be very patient. We need to go slow, step by step, to find the best pieces for the team.”
That doesn’t mean that this year didn’t bring some promise. Prokhorov mentioned young players MarShon Brooks and Gerald Green, as well as the addition of Gerald Wallace, as keys going forward.
“Now we are slowly coming to the more or less adequate situation,” Prokhorov said. “And of course, if it hadn’t been for the crazy injuries this year, I’m sure we would have been in the playoffs. That’s for sure.”