The Brooklyn Nets don’t have much to hang onto. They’re tied for the third-worst record in the NBA, having won only 7 of their first 25 games. After years and years of trades doubling-down on a win-now strategy, they’re now in the midst of a molasses-speed rebuild around Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young.
So there’s only one real option for the Nets to improve substantially — free agency this summer, when they project to have around $40 million in cap space. Sure enough, that’s where the Nets expect to make their bones, according to CEO Brett Yormark.
“We will be a major player there (free agency),” Yormark told the New York Daily News in an interview posted Thursday night.
They’ll have to be. Cap space is the most exciting thing the team has these days: it’s certainly not the on-court product, which has failed to produce victories in three straight games and most recently found its head coach taking blame for their third notable late-game mishap this season. But playing in free agency, like playing in the NBA, doesn’t mean winning.
That’s the first issue facing the Nets in free agency: players often value on-court situations than off-court cachet these days. If basketball wasn’t the game, the Nets might be the best franchise in the league: they have a gorgeous brand-new arena, slick in-game presentation, design, and lighting, the best broadcast in the league (I’m biased here), an expensive new practice facility in the heart of Sunset Park with views overlooking Manhattan, and an owner who has shown no hesitance in spending (if he sticks around).
The optics are there. The situation, however, is not. A Lopez-Young combo is a decent start, but it’s hard to sell a veteran team that’s losing games as a destination. Look at Greg Monroe saying no to the New York Knicks to take a contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, under the assumption that he fit better in the cold confines of Milwaukee. Who he play with is a bigger factor in most decisions for players and agents than who he play for.
The other issue is that Brooklyn’s cap space isn’t at a premium, it’s the new NBA norm. With the salary cap spiking an estimated $20 million this offseason, they’re one of about 25 teams that have the ability to offer someone like Mike Conley or Kevin Durant a max deal. If the Nets strike out on this year’s free agency crop — which is thin at the top as it is beyond those two players — they might have to scramble to spend and find fits. That didn’t work out so well in 2010, but then again, they weren’t ensconced in Brooklyn yet.
Coupled with the dismal start, The fanbase has shown disinterest that’s reflected in the attendance figures. The team currently has the third-lowest attendance in the NBA, averaging just over 14,500 fans per game. Worse for the Nets is that those numbers are of ticket sales, rather than attendance; the team routinely draws far fewer fans than tickets sold. The article also notes that the Islanders are drawing fewer fans in Brooklyn than they did in Nassau Coliseum — though it also notes that ticket revenue in those games are up. That might have to do with 19 sections of obstructed hockey seating
Yormark admitted that the team’s already-low attendance is made even worse by what he called the “no-show” rate, which he estimated at 1,000 fans per game. From an economic standpoint, the value of a seat isn’t just the seat itself, but the value of the person. If a fan is in the arena, they can purchase concessions & merchandise, and enjoy the experience of being at Barclays Center — whatever that’s worth these days. Then there’s the idea that not showing up is a tacit admission that buying a ticket is a lost investment; some people can’t avoid missing a game for extraneous reasons, but 1,000 people a game is a significant chunk of the crowd deciding not to spend their nights on Atlantic Avenue.
There might be one fan Yormark can draw. As the Daily News notes, one Knicks fan, Harlem resident Henry Suazo, took his four-year-old son because, as he told the Daily News: “I’m a Knicks fan actually, but these tickets are almost free compared to Knicks tickets. I’m going to take my son every year as long as the prices are like this.”
So there’s one fan. But it’s a tough sell for anyone — and unfortunately, after years of swinging at the crown, the Nets may have to wait months more to find out if they can make any real splash.
New York Daily News — Barclays Center struggling to attract fans to Nets, Islanders games