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In dramatic fashion, Brooklyn Nets re-set NYC basketball fandom, signing Durant and Irving

NY Post front page
You're just rooting for clothes (to quote Jerry Seinfeld)--the Brooklyn Nets' longest-tenured player, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, is gone after four years, and home-grown All-Star D'Angelo Russell after two years--but the Nets just pulled off an amazing haul, gaining two of the league's ten best players.

By acquiring free agent guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Durant (both 2nd Team All-NBA, though Durant has six times been 1st Team), plus established center DeAndre Jordan, the Nets created huge buzz and positioned themselves for future contention and more ticket sales.

After all, they were last in the league in attendance this past year, though they ended on a serious upswing. With reasons to bolster the fan base, wrote Forbes's Mike Ozanian, "the days of bottom-of-the league TV ratings for the team should be over." The Nets last year "averaged an NBA-low 0.46 rating on the YES Network" despite decent play.

NY Daily News front page
More attendance and a likely longer playoffs run also means more revenues for the not-so-stellar Barclays Center and, assuming it leads to sponsorship deals and other revenue, could vindicate billionaire Joe Tsai's business decision to buy the team at a $2.3 billion valuation. (He currently owns 49%, and is expected to buy the rest.)

Though Nets games are typically not the biggest strain on arena operations--fans are more likely to take the subway than those attending certain concerts, or children's shows--the project and arena are "a very tight fit," as I like to say. So more sellouts at Barclays may pose a challenge for neighbors, given typical illegal parking and other incursions.

Not this year

NY Post back page
By adding the newcomers to a squad of solid young players, Nets GM Sean Marks and Coach Kenny Atkinson have positioned the team as a top team in two seasons, assuming Durant can rehabilitate during his year off from his ruptured right Achilles tendon and the "mercurial" Irving can thrive in Brooklyn's system. And, of course, free agency isn't over.

Clearly, however, it's a remarkable turnaround for the Nets, who, after owner Mikhail Prokhorov's dubious bet on aging Boston Celtics stars, were a league laggard.

The new leadership rebuilt without draft picks and trade assets (rather than, dubiously, "tanking" for a uncertain draft pick), and a testament to the power of team "culture" (including training, and coaching), an impressive practice facility, and the New York market.

"Brooklyn selected good character players and built a culture of work, selflessness and fun around them., as Zach Lowe wrote in ESPN.

NY Daily News back page
The Knicks lose out

It didn't hurt that the crosstown New York Knicks, typically selling out despite a lousy product, have been epically mismanaged by James Dolan, and failed to get the number one draft pick or lure top free agents, all the while losing their one generational talent, Kristaps Porzingis.

More than a few commenters, as well as headline writers, portrayed it a huge loss for the Knicks, and a shift in basketball fandom, and interest, to Brooklyn."Kyrie Irving Commits to Brooklyn, Cementing Nets as Kings of New York," was the New York Times headline.

The Times, more decorously, put the news on the front page as a small photo caption, though it devoted two full pages in the Sports section.

A Durant caption, lower left
The Knicks did sign three decent players--Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis--but they all plan the same position, power forward. If they aren't used as trading chips, well, the roster will be crowded, and Dolan again will be a target of scorn.

Even the pro-Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting, wasn't enthused. Wrote Joe Flynn:
At first blush, this deal doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Knicks already signed power forwards Julius Randle and Taj Gibson earlier in the day. I will say this, however: Portis played more center than power forward last season, so perhaps the front office views him as more of a backup to Mitchell Robinson. Also, the Knicks desperately need shooting, and Portis connected on 39.3% of his three-pointers last season
The league re-sets, too

After one day of free agency, it's impossible to tell how the NBA will sort itself out, but the Nets weren't the only team making big deals. Wrote the NY Post's Howie Kussoy:
Though Brooklyn stole Sunday’s spotlight by landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the opening of free agency, the 76ers ended the night looking like the East’s best team — having retained Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million), stolen Al Horford (four years, $109 million) from rival Boston and acquired solid wing Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade with Miami for Jimmy Butler.
Meanwhile, as NBC reported, the Utah Jazz took a step up:
Just under two weeks after reportedly acquiring point guard Mike Conley from the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, the Jazz continued to build out its roster and reportedly agreed to contracts with Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis on Sunday.
Also, depending on his choice of destination, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could also change the equation. A return to the Toronto Raptors makes them championship contenders, while a move to the Los Angeles Lakers--shorthanded regarding role players, but with LeBron James and Anthony Davis--would create an not-so-balanced super-team.

Some of the commentary on Twitter










As far as I can tell, none of the teams were tweeting last night about free agency, likely because the deals weren't official, and/or there was a league instruction about it.

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