Talented Nets have expectations to meet

10/24/2012 7:40 PM ET
By Jon Lane

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Brooklyn Nets have one more chance to tighten the screws and do some fine tuning on Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Knicks in what will amount to a dress rehearsal for their season opener on Nov. 1.

Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has spent a large chunk of his billions to re-brand the Nets. He has funded the efforts to put together and coach a winner, open the sparkling Barclays Center and take New York City from the Knicks. The heat is on coach Avery Johnson to take what's given to him and parlay it into a championship contender, so even if the Nets end up losing, opponents will have earned it and left the court black and blue.

With a new arena and buzz building to a fever pitch, the time for the Nets to strike is now, because they’re hot and in demand. If you wish to watch the Knicks-Nets opener at the Barclays Center, you’ll be digging deep into your back account. Tickets for the sold-out game are available on StubHub and other secondary markets for an average of $800.87 per seat, with courtside seats normally priced for $1,500 at $8,100.

All that is great for starters, but it will be for naught if the Nets don’t play to expectations.

“I don’t know if the Knicks-Nets rivalry is about building a brand,” Johnson said. “I think you build your brand by winning, by winning in the playoffs, by hopefully getting to the Finals. You build your brand by consistency, and (Knicks aside), we still have to play other NBA teams and be successful against them.”

Leading the charge will be point guard Deron Williams.

As if he needs to play with a chip on his shoulder, NBA general managers were recently polled on the best point guard in the league. Chris Paul (69%), the injured Derrick Rose (20.7), Rajon Rondo (6.9) and Tony Parker (3.4) all earned votes. None were for Williams.

On the surface, that suits the Nets’ floor general just fine. Well before the voting, I liked the attitude Williams showed late in the Nets’ Brooklyn debut when he stood up to trash-talking Washington Wizards point guard A.J. Price, basically telling him not to run his mouth in the Nets’ house.

But while the Nets will be pushing to earn the respect that’s eluded them on the basketball court, the league’s general managers have taken notice: 62 percent of them chose the Nets as the league's most improved team.

And on a recent conference call, TNT analyst Charles Barkley touted the Nets as “the best team in New York.” Sir Charles later took it a step further when he said, “If it was 2000, I would make the New York Knicks the favorite to win the NBA Championship."

The Knicks may be old and the Nets fresh, but it’s the Knicks who still take up most of the real estate in the heart of the big city. If the Nets can match the hype with a huge collection of wins, they will earn the right to talk loudly and carry big sticks.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC comments