The new opening night stakes

Jonas Valanciunas Toronto Raptors
The Brooklyn Nets take on Jonas Valanciunas and the Toronto Raptors on the “it’s all new” opening night.
Jonas Valanciunas Toronto Raptors
The Brooklyn Nets take on Jonas Valanciunas & the Toronto Raptors Saturday, on an “it’s all new” opening night.
On the recommendation of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NBA cancelled the opening night matchup between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets in the Barclays Center. It’s the right call.

The NBA has made it abundantly clear, in their tweets and official releases, that calling the game off was Bloomberg’s call and not their own. From the NBA’s perspective, it makes perfect sense to play the game: they’ve already made the money from the ticket sales even if the arena’s half-full, and they’ll still get national television ratings from a Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks opener on TNT. The juice is there, even if the fans aren’t. Now, the league has to deal with Brooklyn’s opener coming against the Toronto Raptors, shown only on YES, without any of the national intrigue. Bloomberg made the call on behalf of the city, not on behalf of the league.

Of course, from a logistical standpoint, playing the game made absolutely no sense. Subway lines are still down across all boroughs, and the human lines circled all the way around Barclays Center just to take shuttle buses from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The city is not running at operational capacity, and to imagine that 18,000 fans could somehow make it through some combination of shuttles, walkways, and cars during the post-Sandy cleanup is nothing short of ludicrous.

The game’s cancellation presents a new opportunity and challenge to the Nets. Like with the Knicks, one game won’t change the entire scope of a city. But with the Knicks’ new opener allegedly still on against the defending champion Miami Heat, the Nets are facing what most consider to be a clearly inferior team in the Toronto Raptors. Without the hype of the “WHO WINS NEW YORK!?” juice behind it, they have to prove that the Brooklyn brand can stand on its own, beyond the Battle of the Boroughs rivalry. They also have to prove that the roster, famously put together this offseason to make this team legitimately competitive, can in fact shine through when faced with inferior opposition.

The Nets aren’t going to come together overnight. The Barclays Center may not be rocking as much as it might for a Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks contest. But it will be a night solely dedicated to the birth of a franchise, and an opportunity for the Nets to start off on the right foot without the direct burden of borough comparison.

Of course, if the Knicks beat the Heat and the Nets lose to the Raptors… Let’s just hope that Nets-Knicks game gets rescheduled soon.