It was a night of many firsts as the Nets’ celebrated their Brooklyn debut at the opening of the Barclays Center on Monday. The newly assembled team had been in the brand-new arena only a handful of times – for media day, for practice and for shootaround earlier in the day– prior to their inaugural-home preseason tipoff against the Washington Wizards. But this was their first chance to play on the distinct herringbone court and the first opportunity to compete in front of their new fans from the borough– a crowd of more than 14,000– who came to welcome the first major pro sports team to the neighborhood since the Dodgers left town for Los Angeles in 1957.
It may be a while before the franchise gets truly acclimated with the place, but it didn’t take long for the Nets to feel at home. Shortly after the public address announcer greeted fans with the club’s signature “Hello Brooklyn!” the Nets were serenaded for the first time by elongated chants from the crowd of “Brook-lyn,” and the spirited “Let’s go Brooklyn” before the game was underway. The first points at Barclays were hammered home by the Wizards’ starting center Emeka Okafor, on a dunk. Brooklyn’s first basket came moments later, when this week’s Sports Illustrated cover boy, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Deron Williams, fed Kris Humphries for a driving layup.
Despite a slow start against the short-handed Wizards, the Nets rebounded in the second half and pulled away down the stretch for 98-88 victory over the Washington. Behind Brook Lopez’s 18 points and 11 rebounds, and a combined 25 points and 14 assists from the backcourt of Williams and Joe Johnson, Brooklyn secured their first win at Barclays.
In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, with the Nets leading by six, Williams jumped into his first altercation in Brooklyn, when reserve Wizards’ guard A.J. Price –a Long Island native– hacked the Nets’ perennial all-star on his way to a breakaway drive to the basket. The two exchanged barbs and technical fouls under the rim, prior to being separated by teammates. But before Price, who kept shouting, “I’m home. I’m home,” was assessed with a flagrant foul for the bump, D.Will proceeded to let the NBA journeyman know that HE was home already.
“It’s my home now,” Williams said on the court, before roasting the 26-year-old Price, whose career average is just six points in three seasons. “Maybe he had some boys in the crowd he wanted to impress while he can, with the little minutes he’s going to get this year.”
Hello, Brooklyn. Meet your defender.