Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Updated: January 26, 4:54 PM ET
A brighter big picture ahead ... maybe
By Marc Stein
Turns out there was a bonus What If to contemplate Wednesday night, while Jason Kidd's New Jersey Nets were being strafed by the Spurs he spurned last summer.
Namely: What if this Brooklyn thing can really happen fast enough for Kidd to play there in what's left of his prime?
On his first visit to San Antonio since telling Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich that he wouldn't be joining them full time, Kidd had plenty to question. The Nets were hammered, 99-76, to suffer their fourth straight defeat. That dropped New Jersey to 21-19, 10 games back of East-leading Indiana, in what has already been a very long Season No. 1 for the Kidd who signed a six-year, nine-figure contract to stay with the Nets.
San Antonio, in other words, must be looking pretty good to Kidd now.
Yet you can't ignore the news that broke before tipoff because it potentially changes that outlook. Now that the sale of the Nets is virtually complete, the complicated maneuvering necessary to move the team from the Jersey swamps to Brooklyn can begin. Which means that Kidd's future looks a little brighter than it did when he woke up Wednesday morning as a visiting player in the Alamo City on a basically center-less team.
At first brush, there are only two problems with Brooklyn as a home for the Nets.
Problem No. 1: New York Nets sounds better than Brooklyn Nets, but you know the locals who have been waiting decades to replace the Dodgers with pros of their own will insist on being known as a Brooklyn squad.
Problem No. 2: It might take too long to get an arena up to capitalize on the club's standing as an Eastern power. Whether the Nets still have that status at the moment is debatable, but we're simply referring to the fact that Kidd turns 31 on March 23. Even Kidd acknowledges this problem, telling reporters after the San Antonio loss: "When do we move? I might be retired by then."
Let's hope not. If they're not going to Newark, let's hope the league can step in and find a way to expedite things somehow and get the Nets to Brooklyn as quickly as possible. The Nets have belonged to the Garden State for more than 25 years. For at least the past two years, they've given the locals ample reason to support them passionately. Put them somewhere accessable via public transportation, where the area's huge expanse of basketball fans can make their own choice to go watch Kidd if they prefer instead of Stephon Marbury, and there would suddenly be cause for Kidd to be a bit more excited about his decision to stay.
The Nets still face plenty of uncertainty, with a high payroll to hamper roster restructuring, the forthcoming (restricted) free agency of Kenyon Martin and the unresolved future of coach Byron Scott. Newark would have been nice, if only to keep the Nets nearer to where they've always been as an NBA franchise, but it's nonetheless inarguable that a new arena in Brooklyn will make the club worlds healthier than it is today off Exit 16W on the New Jersey Turnpike.
"I know Jason and some of the other guys didn't want to go to Long Island," said one Nets source, "but I haven't heard anyone say anything bad at Brooklyn."
As an NBA city? East Rutherford, frankly, is a lot more iffy.
||I know Jason and some of the other guys didn't want to go to Long Island, but I haven't heard anyone say anything bad at Brooklyn. ”
||— Nets source
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.