Ex-Nets Coach’s Return to Barclays Highlights Early Season Slate
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Nets issued a press release regarding the official announcement of their schedule for the 2014-15 season on Wednesday evening.
The missive mentioned their Oct. 29 season opener in Boston, the home opener Nov. 3 against reigning MVP Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and an early four-game homestand featuring a visit by Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony and the East River rival New York Knicks.
The Nets also announced that they would play eight consecutive road contests – their annual “Circus Trip” -- during a grueling February stretch before finishing the campaign with eight of their final 11 contests at home.
There were even a smattering of “notable” games revealed in the release, a Dec. 3 home date against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and two visits by LeBron James and his new Cleveland Cavaliers teammates on Dec. 8 and March 27.
While Barclays Center figures to be packed to the rafters for any one of the aforementioned games, the one date Nets fans were most eager to see revealed Wednesday evening wasn’t mentioned once in the release.
I’ll reveal it to you here now: Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Do whatever you have to do to remember it.
That’s the date Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks will visit the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues for the first of four meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals.
That’s the date Kidd will face the Barclays Center crowd for the first time since his ill-fated power play landed him in Milwaukee only months after he guided the Nets to the Eastern Conference semifinals following a tumultuous but ultimately successful first year at the helm of the Brooklyn franchise.
That’s the date Nets fans will have to decide whether to deride Kidd mercilessly for the well-chronicled back-door screen he set against Brooklyn general manager Billy King, or welcome him back as arguably the greatest player ever to suit up for the franchise.
Nov. 19 is the date of reckoning for Nets fans and Jason Kidd.
No other game on the Nets’ regular season schedule will carry the amount of juice already loaded into that pre-Thanksgiving week contest.
Not King James and the Cavs, not K.D. and the OK City Gang, not ‘Melo and the Knicks, not Tim Duncan and the champs and certainly not any other of the Nets’ first five home dates before Kidd and the Bucks arrive.
King took the high road earlier this summer when Kidd’s bid to usurp his organizational power fell on the deaf ears of billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Kidd wanted to be a step above the man who hired him only a year earlier in the team’s front-office hierarchy.
He was also irritated by a pair of five-year, $25 million contracts handed out to first-time head coaches Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher by the Golden State Warriors and Knicks, respectively.
Kidd, a two-time Coach of the Month in his initial season, was receiving $10 million over four years from the Nets.
He wanted more money and more power and was willing to climb over King to get it, even though Brooklyn’s top basketball executive had taken a big chance on handing the most expensive roster in NBA history over to a first-year coach fresh off a 19-year playing career.
King took the “It’s only business, not personal” approach in the aftermath of Kidd’s departure and subsequent signing to a more lucrative deal in Milwaukee.
Brooklyn fans, however, may not be as generous.
Though his No. 5 jersey hangs from the Barclays Center ceiling as a reminder of the two NBA Finals he led the Nets to in 2002 and 2003, Kidd isn’t likely to receive a hearty welcome from the 17,000-plus who will pack the arena on that mid-November night.
He arrived here promising to elevate this franchise to its first-ever NBA title, something he fell just shy of delivering on the hardwood when the team was situated in New Jersey.
He thanked Prokhorov and King for believing in him and insisted that the Nets would not take a back seat to the crosstown rival Knicks or any other franchise when it came to pursuing that elusive NBA title.
He overcame a job-threatening 10-21 start by turning the Nets into a “small-ball” driven unit that went 34-19 following the turn of the New Year despite the absence of injured All-Star center Brook Lopez.
He helped Brooklyn overcome Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs, thanks to a tweak of the starting lineup in a pair of win-or-go-home games.
He had the Nets competing with the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the second round, only to fall short in a trio of winnable games that sent Brooklyn home early for the summer.
He did all this, and then forced his way out of Brooklyn in a move that still has Nets fans shaking their heads.
Now it will be their turn to take the business of his rather rude departure quite personally.
Nov. 19., that’s the date.
Mark it down Brooklyn.