Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Avery Johnson can all only hope that their first experience under the bright lights of Barclays Center is an omen of what the future holds.
Joe Cool and D-Will each drove to Barclays in less than 30 minutes. "Sunday morning traffic," said Williams. "I know it won't be like that on game days."
Coach Johnson had his travel time recorded down to the minute. "I got from my home to down here in 24 minutes," he boasted.
For the Brooklyn Nets, Sunday was the first time they practiced in their new home in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, and everyone we spoke to was loving the new arena.
Until the Nets play their first preseason game in Barclays, this is as close to a dress rehearsal as they'll get. Practice ended at 2pm ET, and the Harlem Globetrotters were due to break the building in beginning at 5pm. Jay-Z performed the last of his eight concerts at Barclays the night before, so while arena attendants were busy moving chairs and setting up the building for basketball, merchants in the concourse set up their stands and vendors popped their popcorn.
For the Nets, this is what a normal game day shoot around would probably feel like. And that's just what coach Johnson was looking for.
"It's very important for us to get used to our home," coach Johnson said. "...Our showers, our locker room, and our training room."
And obviously, the court. "We have really good sight lines here, and we put a huge emphasis on that. We want our shooters to feel comfortable shooting in our home building," he added.
Of course, Joe Johnson is one of those shooters, and he agreed with his coach. "It was great to get in here and shoot on these rims," he said. "As a shooter, you want to get into the gym and get acclimated and get comfortable."
Kris Humphries and Deron Williams both felt right at home in Barclays. According to Humphries, he and Williams had special input as to what types of amenities the players should have in their locker stalls and in the locker room. "It felt good when we walked out there," Humphries said. "Once we get some fans in here and make a play and they erupt, it's gonna be nice."
Williams was the happiest of the bunch. "There's no arena like it," he said. "They spared no expense, it's great." Williams has been involved with this process from its early stages. General manager Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson tried to keep him involved and updated with the franchise's planned move to Brooklyn, probably in an attempt to manufacture some excitement on his part and convince him to re-sign with the club this past offseason. If so, the plan worked. Williams re-signed with the club on a five-year contract worth about $100 million. So, for the next five years, he'll be playing on Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue.
"This arena is built for basketball," Williams said. "It's not built for hockey, and it's not built for soccer. There's not a bad seat in the house."
Although the Nets didn't practice on their renowned herringbone wood floors, everyone was excited to be on the floor, in the arena, looking up at something Jay-Z would describe as "all-black-everything."
The lights were shining brightly and the familiar squeak of sneakers on the floor was audible all throughout.
Williams said that he's surprised at the amount of excitement and support that Brooklyn fans have been giving the team thus far. And coach Johnson can't wait to get them in the building.
"I knew, when they were planning this, they talked a lot about making it an intimate environment," the coach said. "We're gonna feel, once we get the building filled up, like our fans are on top of us. And that's a thing we wanted to have."
On Monday, October 15, the Nets will play their first ever game in Barclays Center when the Washington Wizards visit for the club's second preseason game.
If all goes well for Avery Johnson, Deron Williams, and the rest of the team, Barclays may even host a few playoff games this season. According to Joe Johnson, the Nets are aiming to win more than 50 games, and if they manage to do so, they'll certainly bring some playoff action to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
The Nets expect to practice in their new arena at least two more times before they kick off the NBA regular season on November 1. They'll play the New York Knicks in what will be a nationally televised game and the first ever regular season game in Barclays.
The countdown to November 1 continues.
Moke Hamilton is the Executive Editor of SNYNets.com. Follow @SNYNets on Twitter for the latest on the Brooklyn Nets.