Nets to Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboutit

                                                              Thereare plenty of legitimate reasons why Nets fans should spurnrelocation to Brooklyn, so let’s start at the beginning.

Eminent domain would displace an estimated one thousandresidents and storeowners currently occupying the proposed arenasite, near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. Mostof those people won’t even be able to afford high-priced tickets tothe basketball games there. The Brooklyn Arena and Madison SquareGarden would have to split big-name concerts and other events,taking one more jab at MSG management’s self-imposed title as “theworld’s most famous arena.”

The few fans the Nets had actually accumulated in New Jerseyhave no desire to regularly journey through the Lincoln Tunnel oron the George Washington Bridge to see games they could just aseasily watch on television. And in New York City, the Nets willface stiff competition from the already established – and muchbeloved – Knicks.

Scratch that whole plan. Instead, the Nets should travelapproximately 23.5 miles further east to their rightful place inUniondale, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

In case developer Bruce Ratner and his supporters had not heard,the New York Nets played in Suffolk and Nassau counties for nearly10 years prior to their move to the Meadowlands. It was there whereJulius “Dr. J” Erving flaunted his full-grown Afro. It was therewhere the A.B.A. game ball was red, white and blue without a traceof orange. And it’s there where Nets fans still live on without theteam that left them in the late 1970’s.

Why replace a baseball team with a basketball one in Brooklynwhen you could bring that same team back to its true home? Lasttime I researched, Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson never snaredrebounds on courts at Ebbets Field. After all, what was the pointof paying for Coney Island’s KeySpan Park and its residentCyclones, the Mets’ New York-Penn League baseball affiliate, ifungrateful Brooklynites were still going to hold out for a profranchise?

When bidding for the Nets first began, Computer Associatesco-founder Charles Wang had the strongest case. If he hadsuccessfully purchased the team, they would have moved to thereadily available Coliseum starting next season. With the Nets(N.B.A.), Islanders (N.H.L.) and Dragons (A.F.L.) all calling thebuilding home, Wang would then have lobbied for a long-awaited,brand-new arena. Unlike the City, which will soon have both theBrooklyn Arena and the Garden, Long Island’s only major sports andentertainment venue is the Coliseum. Nassau could definitely use areplacement.

With the Nets in Brooklyn, the city will have to dish out $2.5billion for an arena that will not be finished before fall of 2006at the earliest. Meanwhile, bringing the franchise back to theColiseum would cost nothing in terms of construction and couldseriously help Nassau County’s flailing economy. Imagine it: theColiseum’s Islanders and Nets engaged in epic battles with theirrespective foes, the Garden’s Rangers and Knicks.

The Knicks are having trouble filling the Garden, and the Netswill have the same problem in Brooklyn. Their diehard fans live inNew Jersey, where popular opinion has long theorized that Nets fansare afraid to venture into the five boroughs. Most people in theCity have rooted for the Knicks for decades and are not about toswitch allegiances on a whim.

According to the 2001 census, Nassau and Suffolk counties have acombined population of over 2.7 million people, many of whomremember seeing the Nets at the Commack Arena, Island Garden andColiseum from 1968 until 1977. Back then, the team kept moving toaccommodate the huge crowds, going from Commack’s 6,000-seatcapacity in 1968 to the Coliseum’s 17,800 only four years later.With no other basketball team stealing headlines on the Island,it’s easy to envision the Nets drawing immense audiences again.

Nowadays, there are too many winter nights when the Coliseumgoes dark and thoughts of Erving, Rick Barry, Larry Kenon and BillyPaultz playing there are mere memories. It sounds fitting to shipin Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martinto stir things up again. We gave the Cyclones to Brooklyn. Nassauneeds the Nets.