By John Torenli
As Michael Jackson once sang, "It don’t matter if you’re black or white" — or red, white and blue for that matter.
By revealing their new, Jay-Z inspired logo and color scheme on Monday at the Modell’s Sporting Goods store across from the "75 percent complete" Barclays Center on Flatbush Avenue, the Nets made a symbolic gesture for a fresh beginning.
After 35 mostly disappointing seasons in New Jersey, including non-playoff campaigns in each of the last five years, the Nets’ move to Brooklyn provides the star-crossed franchise with a blank slate of sorts.
Maybe the new team colors should be blank and white?
"The Brooklyn Nets logos are another step we’ve made to usher the organization into a new era," noted Jay-Z, who is a minority owner in the team. "The boldness of the designs demonstrates the confidence we have in our new direction. Along with our move to Brooklyn and a state-of-the-art arena, the new colors and logos are examples of our commitment to update and refine all aspects of the team."
That commitment will be put to the test this summer, with the pending free agency of All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who was notably absent from Monday’s proceedings.
If the Nets are unable to bring back Williams, who did intimate last week after a visit to the Barclays that he was still open to playing in Brooklyn next season, they will once again be in the familiar role of second fiddle to the Hudson River-rival Knicks.
Center Brook Lopez, one of several Nets who suffered through an injury-plagued campaign in 2011-12, bellowed, "Hello Brooklyn!" upon donning the organization’s fast-selling swag at the sporting goods chain.
"I’ve been waiting a long time to say that," Lopez added, echoing the sentiments of Brooklynites who have not had a major pro sports franchise to call their own since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles following the 1957 season.
Though comedian/actor Billy Crystal always insists that fans wind up "rooting for the laundry" due to accelerated player movement in today’s sporting world, Nets enthusiasts would certainly like to see some championship-caliber talent in those new black-and-white jerseys, whenever they become available.
Top-tier talent has been sorely lacking since the Nets reached the second of back-to-back NBA Finals in 2003, when they fell in six games to the San Antonio Spurs to remain title-less since leaving the ABA in 1976.
Nets coach Avery Johnson, ever the optimist, has already started building momentum for the 2012-13 squad, which will go down in Brooklyn history regardless of where it finishes in the standings, though a repeat of last year’s 22-44 mark would be less-than-inspiring to a new fan base.
"Hopefully, around this time next year you guys will be at our press conference for the 2013 playoffs,'' said Johnson, who won an NBA title as a player with the Spurs in 1999 and coached the 2006 Mavericks to the Finals.
"If they still stink, I don’t think anyone will care," said Bay Ridge resident Costa Michalakis. "I’m a Knicks fan. Just because the Nets are moving to Brooklyn doesn’t mean I’m going to switch [allegiances]."
To be fair, the Nets are building interest the best way they know how until their new, and hopefully improved, product hits the hardwood in November.
T-shirts, hats, logos, billboards and the announcement yesterday that their general season tickets are now on sale are all important components of creating a brand, be it in Brooklyn or Beloit.
"Our black and white colors speak to Brooklyn’s strong traditions and grittiness and convey an uncompromising confidence," Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said.
But that Brooklyn-inspired bravado will ring a bit hollow if Williams leaves the Nets jilted at the altar the way Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James have done over the past few summers.
Billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, general manager Billy King and Johnson will eventually have to provide Brooklyn fans with a team, not a color scheme, it can be proud of.
Williams revealed last week that he would like to get a deal done before departing for the Summer Olympics in London in late July.
'I'm still looking at all the possibilities here,'' told the Associated Press. ''I went to the arena a couple days ago and saw how it was and it's going to be an exciting arena, a great place to play, and I've always been confident in this organization. Even though I was opting out [of the final year of my contract], I never said I wasn't re-signing with the Nets and that still remains the same.''
Williams, who will officially become a free agent on July 1, also hasn’t made it clear that Brooklyn is where he wants to spend the rest of his career.
With two months to go before Williams hits the open market, King intimated Tuesday that he was confident the 27-year-old play maker and potential face of the franchise would eventually do just that.
But his sentiments, and those of Brooklyn fans eager to rally around Williams and the new-look Nets, won’t mean much until he signs his name on the dotted line -- in black and white.