Commentary

Postponing Nets-Knicks a no-brainer

Staging the Barclays' basketball debut in Sandy's wake would've been a mistake

Updated: November 1, 2012, 4:56 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

The no-brainer to cancel the grand debut in Brooklyn starring the hosting Nets and New York Knicks followed this initial no-hearter -- the declaration Tuesday night that the show would go on.

Yes it was heartless, clueless, lacking in any redeeming social value -- all those things and more. If David Stern thought playing basketball in the immediate wake of Hurricane Sandy would be a great way to kick off his retirement tour as NBA commissioner, he should have retired a long time ago.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally called off the madness Wednesday, telling the NBA's elders what they'd likely already heard from their right-minded fans: There was no way they could go ahead with this game. No way they could throw this party in the middle of what will be an enduring human disaster.

Lives, homes and entire neighborhoods were destroyed in the storm, yet some voices out there suggested New Yorkers could use this opening night inside the brand new Barclays Center as a temporary sanctuary, a place to hide from the pain.

As if a traumatized family of Knicks fans from Breezy Point might feel a bit better after watching Carmelo Anthony jack up 25 shots against the Nets.

The choice to play this game despite the fatalities, injuries and cataclysmic loss of property suffered in the region might not have matched Pete Rozelle's decision to play football after President Kennedy's assassination, but it would've been close enough. The Barclays Center was packaged and sold as a public transportation venue in a public transportation town, and yet with the city's mass transit system paralyzed by the storm, that narrative suddenly changed. Suddenly those subways and trains weren't needed for the ride into Brooklyn after all.

Brett Yormark, whose official title is CEO, Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center and whose unofficial title is carnival barker, was out there rattling on about ticket-holder demands to preserve the game. When Bloomberg slam-dunked the opener for good, Yormark released a statement that ended this way:

"Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. We know these are trying times for so many of you and our thoughts are with you."

It would have been a terrible mistake to play Thursday's Nets season opener in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty ImagesIt would have been a terrible mistake to play Thursday's Nets season opener in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

If your heart was going out to everyone affected by the hurricane, Brett, why didn't you apply a little common sense and decency to the process and fight for the postponement of the game?

The same question stands for Adam Silver, the NBA's commissioner-to-be, who confirmed Bloomberg's recommendation to the league -- Why did the league even need that recommendation before acting? -- and sang the standard our-thoughts-are-with-the-victims song.

The Nets and the league wanted their big night in their $1 billion arena. They saw the neighboring Knicks as the necessary antagonists, the perfect opponent to help return major league sports to Brooklyn for the first time since the Dodgers left town in a different life.

Saturday night's scheduled guests, the Toronto Raptors, would only detract from what was advertised as a memorable occasion. But now the lowly Raptors will have to do, as Bloomberg advised the NBA that Hurricane Sandy wasn't the kind of storm you just weather and play through.

The mayor actually planned to attend Knicks-Nets in Brooklyn. In fact, those fans rich and powerful and prominent enough to command/afford chauffeured limo service and police escorts would have had little problem getting to and from the Barclays Center.

But most of those on mass-transit schedules and budgets would've been out of luck. Many fans willing to drive wouldn't have been willing to burn the fuel, not with lines at gas stations reminding those old enough of the Middle East oil crisis of the early 1970's.

Millions remain without power, many without the resources to purchase gas for generators, never mind the resources to purchase the generators themselves. So the least of their concerns was missing the NBA's national TV opener between the Boston Celtics and defending champion Miami Heat on Tuesday night in Miami, where Stern was quoted in the pregame ceremony saying the following:

"I know that everyone here and around America watching has in their thoughts and in their abiding concerns those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That said, we have a celebration tonight."

Stern could be excused for mixing up his hurricanes, but not for his eagerness to dribble around Sandy and into his last full season in charge. Soon enough, everyone found out there will be no celebration in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Bloomberg realized something that Stern and his advisers should've realized the night before, when Sandy's historic impact was already clear.

In the days after a tragic event, people don't need basketball. They need time to recover, and a little common sense and decency to boot.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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