By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn threw an over-the-top bash — complete with confetti, an appearance by the Brooklynettes dancers and a giant cheesecake from Juniors — to welcome the Brooklyn Nets' power backcourt, NBA All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson before loyal fans at Borough Hall Friday morning.
“Hello, Brooklyn! It’s a dream realized!” crowed Borough President Marty Markowitz to the crowd packing the plaza. They roared back as he shouted, “Manhattan Knicks, you’ve had your day. The Manhattan and Brooklyn rivalry will be re-ignited and more intense than ever!”
“I’m so excited,” said Downtown fan Natalie Gaweda. “My son’s coming in from Staten Island to see them. We’ve been going to Newark for the games, and half the time the Prudential Center is not sold out.
“They’ve changed their colors — even that’s a little exciting. This is going to make a big impact on Brooklyn — go to the game, have dinner afterwards. We can’t wait.”
Gaweda added the only drawback might be the traffic. “You’re gonna need a helicopter to get out of the neighborhood on game night.”
The “Hello, Brooklyn” theme threaded through the press conference held before the giant pep rally, with Nets General Manager Billy King introducing the players and bragging that the Nets now had “the best backcourt in the NBA.
“It’s a new beginning,”he said. “We can defend anybody in the league and score anybody in the league.”
“Thank you for welcoming me to Brooklyn. There’s a lot of great upside to this team. We’re going to come in and be ready to win right away," said Joe Johnson, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for five players, Houston’s 2013 first round pick and the Nets’ second round draft pick in 2017.
Johnson added he was “surprised to be traded from Atlanta, but I felt I would fit right in. I didn’t know anything about Brooklyn, but I was here yesterday and had a chance to see the city a little bit.”
Johnson told the Brooklyn Eagle, “You’re going to see a lot of involvement with the community. It’s all about family; they’ll have pride. When you play hard every night, people will respect you.”
Point guard Deron Williams, who re-signed with a five-year, $98 million contract on Wednesday told reporters, “Joe’s a big reason I’m still here. I’ve formed a great relationship with the team over one and a half years. I’m happy how aggressive they were in free agency. We definitely have a nice squad going into Barclay’s — it’s a fresh, new start.” He added, “For me the last year had kind of a painful feel. But I think that’s gonna change.”
Williams added that re-signing with the Nets “was a basketball decision. It came down to the roster, and how aggressive Billy was pursuing free agency. Once I saw he traded for Joey, it was the decisive factor.
“You can just feel the energy that these fans have, that the organization has, for this move,” he said. “I think we can be one of the best teams in the East if we come together under coach’s guidance, which I think we’re all willing to do that.”
Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson said he had “a lot of sleepless nights before [Williams] re-signed. I was getting two hours sleep, now I’m getting four. We have the same vision for winning the championship. And in acquiring Joe, what a great deal for us. Joe’s a tremendous talent. I’m in a happier mood now that he’s on the team.”
Silas Hyde, 12, said he was glad Brooklyn got a team back. “We haven’t had one since the Dodgers.” His friend Malcolm Seymour-Jones, 12, added “I’m glad we have a team here, representing the borough with pride.”
“It’s a new beginning,” said fan David Figueroa, with his son, also David. “That’s why I brought my son. They’re going to have a real good season — they’ll make the playoffs.”
Eugene R. from Bedford-Stuyvesant also saw playoffs in the future. “They’ll get to the playoffs. They might get knocked out the first round, but they’ll get to the playoffs.”
Isaac Taylor said, ”They’re going to be playing at least .500 ball.”