By Brian Mahoney
Barclays Center sits right above a major mass-transit hub, an ideal destination for fans throughout New York.
Not right now, though.
With those subways knocked out by Hurricane Sandy and no way of knowing how fans would get there, the city's mayor decided this isn't the time for a game.
So Michael Bloomberg asked the NBA to postpone Thursday's highly anticipated opener between the Knicks andNets, and the league agreed Wednesday.
"It's a great stadium, 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," Bloomberg said at a news conference.
Barclays Center sits above the Atlantic Avenue subway station complex which hosts nine subway lines and a Long Island Rail Road station, and was expanded as part of the $1 billion arena's construction. The Nets believe that will be a major selling point in drawing fans to the games after they were plagued by poor attendance during their years in New Jersey.
But without knowing what — if any — subways would be available and with city officials still preferring people not drive into New York, the Nets agreed with the decision.
"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. So in the grand scheme of things, a basketball game really doesn't mean much right now," Nets point guard Deron Williams told reporters after practice. "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."
The Knicks are now scheduled to open their season at home Friday night against the Miami Heat. The Nets are scheduled to host Toronto on Saturday night.
Bloomberg said the city will work with the league to provide extra buses to Saturday's game in case the subways are not yet operational. Brett Yormark, the Nets' CEO, said in a statement that there would be food and beverage specials starting at 5:30 p.m.
The usual NBA policy on the status of a game is to play it if both teams and the three referees can make it to the arena. That wouldn't have been a problem, one of the reasons the league originally planned to play as scheduled.
However, the league also wanted to be sensitive because it was the Nets' first game, televised to a national TV audience on TNT, and didn't want the team's big event to be one that was largely empty.
"Mayor Bloomberg informed us this afternoon that after further analysis of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy that he felt it was in the best interests of the city of New York, the teams and our fans that we postpone the Knicks-Nets game scheduled for Thursday night," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. "Our thoughts are with all those affected by this devastating storm."
The Nets are still practicing in New Jersey this season, yet moved practice to Barclays Center after their facility in East Rutherford suffered damage from the storm. Rookie Tyshawn Taylor was unable to make it, stuck in his Hoboken home.
The NBA had said Tuesday night that the game would go on as scheduled, and fans were eager for what would have been the first major sports game in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left for Brooklyn in 1957. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, a Brooklyn native, called it a "monumental" event for the borough.
Bloomberg said he planned to attend with his daughters and girlfriend and said players wanted to play, but he and the Nets agreed that it was better to wait.
"The right thing to do," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "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."
The Nets are working with the league to find a makeup date. Tickets for Thursday's game will be honored for the rescheduled game.
Updated with additional information at 7pm.