Nets starting five grace new Sports Illustrated cover (PIC)


(Photo: Sports Illustrated)

Mikhail, we’re not in New Jersey anymore.

There they are, serious and straight, no smiles. They mean business. No more jersey retirement ceremonies, there are no more goofy dodgeball tournaments, nothing but basketball left for the new-look Brooklyn Nets.

And, to be perfectly honest, it’s pretty hard to believe.

The Nets hired the best player in franchise history to coach the team weeks after retiring from their crosstown rivals. Coach Kidd still flows off the tongue as if I’ve said it for years, but I don’t really know why.

Of course, then the Nets traded with one of the franchise’s biggest rivals in twenty years, acquiring Paul Pierce, by getting Kevin Garnett, one of the best power forwards in NBA history, to waive his no-trade clause.

In a week, Brooklyn fans will finally see the Nets on the court after all the hype, celebration and general fanfare of this summer; and suddenly, none of that will matter anymore. Somehow, expectations have managed to go up from last year. Many believe that the Nets are one of the NBA’s only hopes to dethrone the evil powers down in Miami. And that’s after getting through Indiana and Chicago, too.

Unfortunately, and to use a cliche, the game isn’t played on paper. So when the season tips off next week, magazine covers will no longer matter. Starting next week, something special in Brooklyn will begin.

Looking at that cover, it may just be impossible not to smile.

But the Brooklyn Nets are done smiling. They’re finally ready to play basketball.