For the Nets, A First Victory in Brooklyn

Victories have been extremely hard to come by for the Nets this season. But after an assist from the New York State Court of Appeals yesterday, the Nets earned a victory that could go a long way towards changing the fortunes of the franchise.

Yesterday’s ruling by New York state’s highest court still does not make the Nets proposed move to Brooklyn a definite – financing for the project is still a necessity for this move to happen, and this ideally must be accomplished before the end of the year, all in a down economy.

But make no mistake. Though opponents of the Atlantic Yards Development and the Barclays Arena will continue to talk about the number of lawsuits they have filed and will continue to file, yesterday’s ruling in favor of the developer’s use of eminent domain to acquire the property they need in Brooklyn to build this project was a critical blow to the opposition. Opponents can try attacking the way state agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority do business, but if Bruce Ratner is able to get the financing his need to qualify for tax exempt bonds, Brooklyn will finally become a reality for the Nets organization.

In our comments section yesterday, one of our readers, calling all toasters, wrote:  “LeBron or no, this is the most important day for the Nets in the last 3 decades. They should have a permeant home, a larger fan base, a wealthy owner, and (for once) some sparkle.”

While there are still a good chunk of Nets fans who would rather the team stay in New Jersey, those who believe that it’s in the organization’s long-term interest to build their future in Brooklyn likely shared this level of enthusiasm. In a season that has already seen its lion-share of frustration, anger and disappointment, the state’s court ruling was the most silver of linings. Brooklyn brings new possibilities to the organization: a state-of-the-art arena that, even without the grandiosity of architect Frank Gehry, should still be impressive. There’s also the ability to promise current players and free agents an opportunity to shine in the world’s biggest media market, in that market’s hippest borough.

Then there’s the promise of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. While there has been some buzz as of late that Prokhorov’s takeover of the team is not totally contingent on Brooklyn, having details of the move finalized by the end of the year, would certainly make the transition to new ownership a lot simpler. With Prokhorov, the Nets will have an owner who has a track record of spending to win – something the organization has sorely lacked during the Ratner era. While I agree with calling all toasters about the magnitude of yesterday’s decision, I think the organization’s most important day will ultimately be decided by NBA owners if and when they approve Prokhorov as the new Nets owner in the near future.

But until then, the focus remains on Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards. As a resident of New York, it’s certainly disconcerting that there is legal precedent that a private developer can grab someone’s home for the sake of project that may, or may not “improve” the region. But from a basketball perspective, this ruling is as big as it gets. Now it’s up to Ratner and his team to push this project over the finish line – get the financing he needs so this organization can get out of the purgatorial state it has been for the past six years. The ball is now firmly in your court Ratner, and with the season sinking around you, it’s on you to finally deliver on your promises to bring the Nets to a better place.