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Where Brooklyn At? Nets Need Fans Engaged In Playoffs

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“I don’t know if you can say ‘F Brooklyn’ and come into Brooklyn, so we’re about to see what it’s like,” said Nets’ forward Kevin Garnett following his team’s Game 2 loss in Toronto. The comment — a reference to Raptors GM Masai Ujiri’s cursing of Brooklyn prior to Game 1 – was supposed to get the Barclays Center crowd riled up, and provide a hostile building for the visiting Raptors to come into. But, after two games in Brooklyn, Garnett, who is used to playing in front of parochial crowds in Minnesota and Boston, probably did not picture it being the way it is. Forced.

No number of white rally towels can mask that.

Garnett knows first-hand what it is to experience a hostile crowd in New York – the Mecca of basketball. He’s been reviled by Knicks’ fans for years. But those are fans steeped in tradition, history, and ultimately, success. Well, more success than the Nets anyway. After Ujiri insulted an entire ‘borough, Garnett had every right to believe that the home crowd would be out for blood. I mean, everything you’ve ever heard about Brooklyn in the past would indicate so, right? Unfortunately, the ‘new’ Brooklyn is diversified, and the fans that attend games are more ‘hipster’ than ‘goon.’ It still doesn’t explain why – for the most part – there has been a lack of energy in the building for Game’s 3 and 4. Brooklyn’s crowd are fashionably-late attendees at the best of times during the regular season, but more-so in Game 3. Devin Kharpertian of TheBrooklynGame.com snapped this picture of the Barclays crowd just two minutes before tip-off. I doubt the Raps’ were too intimidated by it.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 1.17.15 AM

As has been the case inside Barclays for the better part of two seasons now, fan interaction often feels forced and contrived, and music and noise is louder than the crowd itself. On too many occasions it’s on court announcer David Diamante to implore the fans to ‘stand up!’ This was not lost on Garnett, and Paul Pierce following the game.

“They could do better,” Garnett said of the Nets’ crowd on Saturday. “I was expecting Brooklyn to be real hostile, New York-style. I know what it’s like to come here as the opposition, so our crowd could do better, but they were there when we needed them, and we fed off of them.”

Pierce, whose crossover dribble and slam dunk highlighted a 10-0 run during the second quarter of Game 3 – sparking the crowd into life – was a little more forgiving than Garnett.

“Well, we know gradually they got into it,” Pierce said. “Hopefully the next game, it will get a lot better from the start. We want to come out from the jump, from the beginning, and have them in the game. It shouldn’t take a big play from us. We want them behind us. It was a great crowd tonight.”

It was more of the same in the beginning of Game 4, though. In fairness, the late-arriving crowd was engaged from the second quarter onwards, but it was still a far cry from arenas such as Oklahoma City’s, or the Warriors’ crowd at Oracle. The man who was supposed to feel the wrath of the Brooklyn locals, Ujiri, claimed to the New York Daily News that he wasn’t hassled once.

“It’s been good,” he told the Daily News of his time in the borough. “There’s been no problems. No problems at all. I apologized to them, so it didn’t mean anything. I was trying to motivate our fans and our following. I was trying to get our fans [into it].”

I get it though. To truly develop a passionate fan-base it will take a few years, along with continued Nets’ success, but if a rival GM insulting an entire ‘borough during playoff time isn’t enough to get this crowd going, nothing will.Doubt the M.S.G. crowd would have let Ujiri slide on that one.
Now with the series definitely heading back to Barclays for a Game 6 on Friday is when the Nets will need their fans the most right from the outset.
No more playing around. Brooklyn, now is the time to stand-up and be heard because your team needs you.
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