Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bloomberg, with no chagrin about reconfirmation yesterday of Brooklyn Nets debut, announces inaugural game against Knicks postponed "at my recommendation"; NBA expresses sympathy with "all those affected"; CEO Yormark does a 180-degree turn

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In a blow to the grand plan to have the Brooklyn Nets debut on national TV, the team's "historic" home opener tomorrow night at the Barclays Center against the New York Knicks has been postponed, even though it was reconfirmed yesterday despite the devastation of the subway system in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Was that the right thing to do, or was it because they couldn't get people to the game? Maybe both.

Asked yesterday about the postponement, he replied (in the video below) that he didn't know: "I did see the story on a well known news service that said that the NBA was going ahead with the three games, I guess tomorrow night, and they had not decided yet about Thursday night's game. Um, I hope they do it. I plan to go. It's going to be tough to get there because, remember, one of the great things about the Barclay's Center is the great mass transit that runs under it, unfortunately for the moment, not a lot is running under it. What they are going to do, I don't know, but if it's scheduled I will go. I think it's going to be a great arena and it's a great thing for Brooklyn, and so..."

This afternoon, he spoke at a news conference, beginning rather bureaucratically, "At my recommendation, the NBA has canceled tomorrow night's game between the Knicks and the Nets. It was going to be the first Nets game in the new stadium. Now the first Nets game will be Saturday at 7:30 at the Barclays Center. The Nets play the Toronto Raptors, and this game will be rescheduled. The NBA will be working with the city to provide extra bus services for Saturday night, because the subways may not be back. After that, there's plenty of mass transit, that's one of the beauties of the Barclays Center."

Bloomberg didn't express any chagrin about the announcements yesterday, apparently with coordination of his office, reconfirming the game. "Unfortunately, we didn't count on Sandy," he said, his style a bit warmer. "Hopefully Sandy doesn't come along very often. I'm sorry about the game, I was personally going to take my daughters and [companion] Diana [Taylor]. We were looking forward to it. It's a great stadium, it would've been a great game, but the bottom line is: there is just not a lot of mass transit; our police have plenty of other things to do. I know lots of fans are going to be disappointed. And the players are disappointed--the players wanted to play this. But I did talk to the NBA and recommended that--ask them to cancel the game. It's all up to me.

A mistaken decision yesterday?

Overall,  it's a repudiation of what I called a "stone cold power move," the decision to hold "the game before anyone knows if mass transit will work--when the arena was built to rely on mass transit." That decision, I observed, suggested that the interests of the league, the network, and the arena operators trumped those of the ticket holders and the citizens of Brooklyn.

USA Today yesterday reported that the decision was made after the NBA consulted with Bloomberg's office and the Nets.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday told "I am confident that the NBA, in conjunction with the MTA, the NYPD and all of the necessary city agencies, will make a decision that represents the best interests not only of sports fans but of all of our citizens in New York City."


The NBA backed off, according to the AP:
"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 in a statement. "Our thoughts are with all those affected by this devastating storm."
They didn't say that yesterday.

Nets CEO's tune

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and the arena, yesterday tweeted, "Tnt makes it official. Brooklyn nets debut will happen on thursday. Going to be a huge night."

This morning, as noted by Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy, "Nets CEO goes on the radio saying that playing Thursday was best possible solution and New York could use it as a rallying cry."

On the radio

"You know I love you, and you know I think that going to Brooklyn's a great thing for you guys and for the franchise, and ultimately for basketball in New York," WFAN host Craig Carton said in the interview. (Also check podcast.) "I think it's terrible that this game's being played tomorrow night, and hope you can walk me through the decisionmaking."

Yormark responded, "At the end of the day, there was a lot of people involved. We worked very closely with the NBA and the Mayor's office... At the end of the day, for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward. We're working with the MTA... We'll have that posted on sometime today. We also feel today this can be in many respects a rallying cry for New York. obviously, it's a devastation... We do need to move on, and we're going to do the best we can."

Co-host Boomer Esiason, a Long Island resident, "The problem is, we're not going to be able to watch it at home.. .I think it's one of the reason why Craig and I have been talking about it... I know what they're going to say to you: there are no trains. Are they going to increase bus service?"

"The plan is to increase buses, to provide shuttle services," Yormark responded, "We're going to work on what that plan is going to look like, in order to mitigate any problems."

"You're going to have a half empty building and no one watching on TV in the tri-state area," Esiason retorted. "It takes away from the that it's the first sporting event since 1957, and ther ality so so many people have real life going on, and frankly offended that the game is being played."

"My heart is going out to anyone who's in a bad spot," Yormark said. "But we felt collectively that it was the right thing to do. We received an enormous amount of emails form our season ticketholders... and we're going to try to make the most of it... the timing obviously is not good, but we have to move on, because it could be days before the subway system is back in order.

Carton asked, "Who makes the ultimate decision?"

"I think it's a collective decision," Yormark responded, "The league has their perspective, we have our perspective, local government officials have their perspective."

Esiason asked if Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was "all on board."

"We spoke to Marty, our people did yesterday, we collaborated with everyone," Yormark responded. "This isn't a decision the NBA, or the Nets, made in a silo... we think we had a good process in coming up with this decision."

"Did anyone say no?"

No, Yormark said.

"That's fascinating to me, Carton responded, suggesting that Markowitz, representing Brooklyn, would know different neighborhoods might have different opinions. (I think that's a bit generous.) "I gotta tell you, this game should not be played. How much does [cable network] TNT have a voice in it?"

"Safety's paramount in all our decisionmaking," Yormark responded. " TNT, obviously collaborated with the league. This is not about television or TNT." (Really?) "This was about what we felt was best for all concerned. Again, I think we made the decision to move forward... I do expect a great crowd and a great moment."

"Was the thought process: if you didn't play tomorrow night, you'd find a date later in the season... or open up on Saturday night?" asked Carton.

"The next thing would be opening up on Saturday, and I'm not sure how much improvement we'd have," said Yormark. (And that's what they're doing--transit access will be better because there are two days more to fix the system, and no commuters will be going home.)

Carton also asked Yormark if they'd run "special buses solely for getting people... specifically to the center?"

"We're exploring every and all options," Yormark responded.

A letter from Yormark

This afternoon, Yormark wrote fans a letter, with a different message:
Mayor Bloomberg recommended to the NBA this 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 tomorrow night. 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.

The Brooklyn Nets home opener at Barclays Center will now be Saturday, November 3 against the Toronto Raptors. We will have a transportation plan in place, including additional bus options, for this game.

Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy select food and beverage specials from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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.
That 5:30 door means they really want people to start getting there early.

More from the mayor

Bloomberg said there'd be no subway service below 34th Street in Manhattan, where there is no power and cited "a very complicated process"  to get water out of tunnels. He said service under the East River was "unlikely"until sometime in the weekend.

While all the East River bridges are open, most tunnels remain closed. To reduce number of cars coming into Manhattan, the four East River bridges will be be restricted to High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) containing three or more people from 6 am until midnight.

Also, bus lanes are being established. Schools are still closed for students the rest of the week.

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