By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When you've waited over 55 years for a major pro sports franchise to call your own, what's another two days?
That's the message the Brooklyn Nets sent to their fervent fans, with a little push from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when they made the decision Wednesday to postpone their much-anticipated season opener against the East River rival New York Knicks at the Barlcays Center in light of the city-wide damage and transportation problems caused by Hurricane Sandy.
"[It was] the right thing to do," Nets coach Avery Johnson said as his players were forced to practice in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday after the team's facility in East Rutherford, N.J., was shut down due to the violent storm, which left hundreds of thousands throughout the tri-state area without power.
"We all would have loved to play, to bring, hopefully, the people that have power or some of the fans that could've made it to the building, we would have loved to have brought them some sense of entertainment or joy or whatever, but, at the same time, all of the people who were responsible for making this decision, it was the right thing to do," added Johnson, who will now lead the Nets onto the Barclays Center court for their inaugural season opener Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Raptors.
''It's a great [arena], it would have been a great game, but the bottom line is: There is not a lot of mass transit. Our police have plenty of other things to do,'' the Mayor said Wednesday, approximately 36 hours before the Knicks and Nets were scheduled to tip off on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
While Friday night's Knicks-Heat game is still slated to go off at Madison Square Garden, and the Steelers-Giants clash at MetLife Stadium is also a go, the Mayor decided that despite the Nets' desire to play the opener as scheduled, in coordination with NBA officials, waiting another two days for subway systems and other local rail services to get back up to snuff would be the prudent thing to do.
Barclays CEO Brett Yormark, who took the-show-must-go-on approach earlier in the week, ceded to the Mayor's authority and decision-making as felled trees, downed electricity lines and limited public transportation access made attending the original Opening Night festivities a logistical nightmare for those eager to welcome the Nets to our fair borough as Brooklyn's first major pro sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.
"Mayor Bloomberg recommended to the NBA [Wednesday] afternoon that after further assessments of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, he felt it was in the best interests of New York City for the NBA to postpone the Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks game scheduled for [Thursday] night," said Yormark. "As a result, the game has been postponed for a date to be determined. Tickets for the November 1 game will be honored for the rescheduled game.
"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," added Yormark, who indicated that the doors to the arena would be opened at 5:30 p.m. in advance of a 7:30 p.m. tip-off for Saturday's game.
The $1 billion building, which has already hosted various concerts, a pair of Nets exhibition games, the Harlem Globetrotters and a night of world championship boxing since opening its doors on Sept. 28, is ready to roll this weekend, with another game against Minnesota scheduled for Monday night before the Nets visit Miami on Nov. 7.
As for the players, some of whom were forced out of their Jersey homes, the wait to officially call Brooklyn their new place of business continues, at least until fans start filling the 19,000-seat arena Saturday evening.
Rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor was stuck in a Hoboken hotel and backup center Andray Blatche witnessed boats streaming past his residence in an effort to rescue those whose water-side homes that had been flooded.
"We're disappointed that we can't play, but there's a lot more important things going on right now, a lot of people displaced from their homes, a lot of people lost loved ones," noted Deron Williams, the Nets' $100 million All-Star point guard. "So in the grand scheme of things, a basketball game really doesn't mean much right now.
"I think it'd be hard for a lot of people to even get to the game in the first place, with public transportation being shut down. I guess it makes sense to not have the game," added Williams.
Though it may be difficult for Brooklynites to get up for a basketball game while city workers and volunteers continue to sift through the damage Sandy wrought, Johnson knows his team must remain focused on the task at hand: opening Barclays with a big win that will be long-rememberd in the annals of Nets history, as well as that of Brooklyn.
"And right now, it’s even more important for us to do our jobs, because of the people that will show up in our building," the raspy-voiced coach insisted. "Somebody is gonna show up Saturday. Somebody who has power is gonna watch us on TV, or listen to it on the radio, or – if they have Internet service – follow it on the Internet. And hopefully we can bring some joy to them."
Regardless of what the scoreboard says at approximately 10 p.m., Saturday night, the Nets and Brooklyn will emerge as winners for kicking off a new era in Brooklyn basketball history, especially after displaying the prudence to postpone the original opener.
After all, what's another two days after 55 years of waiting? Not much when you stop to think about it.