Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish: Can ‘The Block’ lead the way?

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In this midweek Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish, we take a look at ‘The Block,’ a new members-only section at Barclays Center that is trying to grow the fan base.

Wednesday is game day for the Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish, as the club opens a three-game homestand at Barclays Center against the Detroit Pistons.

Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) took a look at a new initiative by the team this season that is attempting to build more of a homecourt advantage for the Nets at Barclays.

“The Block: Home of the Brooklyn Brigade” debuted this season in section 114, with 50 fans selected to join The Block and receive free season tickets.

The Brigade’s origins date to November 2012, the Nets’ first season in Brooklyn, when Bobby Edemeka bought 20 tickets to a home game for a group of superfans he’d never actually met.

The Brigade now has more than 150 members and is a noticeable presence at any Nets home game.

Building and sustaining a fan base has never been easy for New York “other” team.

The Nets are in their 52nd season and have played in eight different home arenas in two states, from the franchises’s beginnings at the New Jersey Americans (after they were denied an arena in Manhattan) to today’s identity in Brooklyn.

Through all the travels from Teaneck to Commack to West Hempstead to Uniondale to Piscataway to East Rutherford to Newark and finally to the borough, the New York Knicks have been a constant at Madison Square Garden.

How constant? The Knicks have been there so long they predate the NBA.

The franchise was one of 11 charter members of the Basketball Association of America when it launched in 1946 and is one of three of those 11 that remains in operation, along with the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors (who started in Philadelphia before departing for the Bay Area in 1962).

But perhaps The Block is another step forward toward creating a real home-court advantage for the Nets at Barclays Center.

Dangerous times ahead

The Brooklyn Nets have lost three straight games and have fallen to 2-5 on the young season. For a club that is preaching culture, atmosphere and the big-city life as it prepares to enter the free agency market with gusto next summer, that could be a problem.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post points out, telling free agents you are on the right path is one thing.

Actually showing how far you’ve already traveled down that path is something else entirely and another season of 50-plus losses will do little to engender confidence that Brooklyn is, in fact, turning a corner.

General manager Sean Marks acknowledged this on a recent appearance on an ESPN podcast:

"“Now, with social media, the market may not be quite as big [a deal] as it once was. However, there’s nothing like playing in Brooklyn, New York, the L.A.s. The difference is we all have the money, we all have the space this year. So it’ll be interesting for us.“One thing we’re trying to show — and it’s been written about, it’s been said — is that guys compete. Our guys compete on a nightly basis and that’s going to be really important.“Because whatever free agent is looking at you, whether it’s this year, next year or five years from now, nobody wants to come to a situation where they think, ‘Man, I’m going to have to carry this load.'”"

That makes the coming three-game homestand — against the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers — an important one, if just to get the general momentum of the thing turned back the right way a bit.

Jefferson settling in

Former New Jersey Nets standout Richard Jefferson joined the club in a different capacity this fall after retiring as a player, putting forth his thoughts as an analyst for YES Network.

He’s already worked two games as an analyst with play-by-play man Ian Eagle and told Tom Dowd of that helped ease the transition.

"“He’s one of the best in the business, so that’s kind of like playing with Magic Johnson or LeBron James. When you step on the court you’re going to be a point or two better just because you’re on their team.”"

Jefferson is set to work 25 games, including some with fellow analyst Sarah Kustok on a three-member crew, as well as some studio appearances.

So far, he’s been a great fit, which wasn’t a surprise. He seemed like a natural to make this transition, given his sense of humor, NBA experience and his comfort in front of the camera.

Rebounding answer could raise spacing questions

Greg Logan of Newsday looked at the difficulties the Brooklyn Nets continue to have closing out defensive possessions. The Nets are currently 29th in the NBA, allowing 13.6 offensive rebounds per game to their opponents. Only the Washington Wizards at 13.9 are worse.

In terms of defensive rebounding rates, Brooklyn is 28th, containing 71.2 percent of the defensive rebounds available to them.

By contrast, the Detroit Pistons — Wednesday’s opponent — leads the NBA in that category at 83.8 percent and is eighth in offensive rebounding rate at 25.4 percent.

The inability to clear the defensive window was a big factor in their blowout loss Monday night to the New York Knicks, where they were outscored 29-12 in second-chance opportunities.

But they best rebounding options available to coach Kenny Atkinson would be backup center Ed Davis or last year’s starter at the 4, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Neither of them is a 3-point shooting threat by any definition, so making a switch to remove Jared Dudley from the starting unit comes with a price to the offensive spacing.

Fundamentally, however, it seems easier to solve the spacing problems with ball and player movement than it does to solve the defensive rebounding dilemma when your primary board men are either inexperienced or undersized.

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Because that problem has proven to be more difficult than Chinese algebra for the Nets over the last season or two.