Not to take away anything from the Brooklyn Cyclones winning the 2019 New York-Penn League championship, but the last major-league sports championship in the borough of Brooklyn was captured by the Brooklyn Dodgers…in 1955!
When the Brooklyn Nets came to town for the start of the 2012-2013 season, hope was restored that the borough would once again celebrate a championship title. Yet in five trips to the postseason since the move to Kings County, the Nets have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once.
Even the star-studded roster of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez couldn’t get it done on the biggest stage. For Nets fans, it’s been frustrating to say the least.
However, this year seems different. The Nets have been the talk of the Eastern Conference and are rattling off wins at home and on the road.
“What the Nets are doing now is so exciting,” said Deacon Anthony Mammolitti of St. Dominic, Bensonhurst, a former/frustrated New York Knicks fan who converted when the Nets moved to Brooklyn. “They’ve got this dream team that they’ve put together.
“It’s good for Brooklyn. It’s giving us an identity again in terms of sports. I can honestly say they’ve brought a sense of excitement back to New York City basketball, something that has been lacking.”
Superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had the team playing competitively to start the year, but it was the blockbuster trade for James Harden that has allowed the Nets to reach new heights. Harden is a nine-time NBA All-Star and three-time league scoring champion who has led the league in assists since the trade, which involved the Nets giving up some young talent and a number of draft future picks.
“At first, I was skeptical,” said Joe Pedota, a former Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball coach at St. Ann, Flushing. “I didn’t like him (Harden) before he was a Net, and now I love him! He has changed his game for the good of the team. Every night, whatever they need him to do, he does.”
Pedota became a Nets fan at the age of 5 when his uncle took him to Nassau Coliseum to watch Julius “Dr. J” Erving play in the American Basketball Association Finals. He stuck by the team when they joined the NBA, moved to New Jersey and then on to Brooklyn.
Fellow Nets fan Bobby Fristachi, former CYO basketball coach at St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside, and Our Lady of the Snows, North Floral Park, is also feeling the excitement since the Harden trade.
“I feel like James Harden has been doing a great job of managing the point guard role so far,” said Fristachi, a CYO Hall of Famer. “This is the best trade this season!”
First-year head coach Steve Nash quietly yet effectively has his team playing sound basketball. Nash was a two-time MVP who will soon take his place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, so when he talks, his players listen.
The depth of the Nets is what’s so impressive. The entire roster is making contributions, including Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Tyler Johnson and Nicolas Claxton. The team also traded for six-time All-Star Blake Griffin. This is a complete team!
In the Eastern Conference, the biggest threats to the Nets are the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. It’s hard to imagine though any of these teams taking down Brooklyn in a seven-game series.
If the ball bounces the right way, the Nets could find themselves squaring off against the great LeBron James and the reigning NBA Finals champion Los Angeles Lakers. Before we think too far ahead though, the team needs to get healthy. Durant — arguably the team’s best player — has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury and has missed significant time.
If they can stay healthy, play a bit of defense and keep making big shots, the sky’s the limit for this Brooklyn bunch.
“The Nets can give us a ray of hope during this pandemic that a championship is right around the corner,” Deacon Mammolitti said. “Can they bring it home? They surely have the potential to do so. It would be great for New York if they did it, and it would be great for Brooklyn if they did it.”
Will the Nets join “Dem Bums” as Brooklyn champions? Stay tuned for an exciting end to the regular season and hopefully a deep playoff run toward an NBA crown.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.