There’s more in common here than just the first letter of the borough they play in
Looking into the past, there isn’t much that the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Nets have in common. The Yankees have their famously long list of titles and successes, while the Nets have been to a few NBA finals, but have not hoisted a championship trophy since they played in the NBA.
The differences don’t stop there.
The Yankees have long been owned by the dynastic Steinbrenner family, while the Nets owners have changed fairly frequently, and the team is now owned by an enigmatic and rarely seen or heard from Russian billionaire.
The Nets have also had quite a few homes, from the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, to the Continental Airlines Arena (et. al) at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and, currently, Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center (no “the”, which Brett Yormark made sure was clear to me during more than one conversation.) Meanwhile, the Yankees (almost) have always played in a building called “Yankee Stadium,” located at the intersection of 161st St. and River Ave. in the Bronx.
Similarly, the two franchises market themselves in almost completely opposite ways. The Yankees are baseball’s old guard, the respected superpower that leans on tradition and history. The Nets have cast themselves as the new generation, all swag in sleek black and white and embracing the borough of Brooklyn.
But if you forget all the differences in their history and focus on the roads both franchises have ahead of them, there’s a remarkable amount in common. We’ll get to the rest of the similarities in a moment, but suffice to say, the biggest similarity is this: both sets of fans are going to have to be patient.
There’s a lot more there to be sure. Both teams are associated with Jay-Z, both play in very expensive but oft-criticized new stadiums and both seem to be a bit out-of-touch with what the casual fan wants to see. But for sure, the pair’s largest swath of common ground is the waiting game they find themselves in.
Both teams, and maybe even more so their respective fan bases, are waiting. Waiting for contracts to expire—nearly half the conversations between Yankee fans now include a pining for the days when checks will no longer be cut to guys like Texiera or Headley, while Nets fans are quite familiar with counting down the days until albatrosses like Deron Williams would be gone.
Both sides are waiting for their futures to truly begin. Yankee fans have used the impending free agent and trade spending spree that’s sure to come when the Yankees finally ditch those horrendous contracts in a few years to soften the blow of what seems to be some less than stellar seasons waiting on the horizon.
Meanwhile, Nets fans are just waiting to enjoy the draft again after the team sent control of seemingly a century’s worth of draft picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for those previously mentioned albatrosses in Garnett and Pierce. (and don’t forget Jason Terry!)
There is one major difference left between these two franchises, however. Once this waiting period game has run its course, their plans are vastly different. While the Yankees do have a handful of prospects waiting in the wings in guys like Aaron Judge, Andrew Bird and (supposedly) Luis Severino, fans and media expect the team is going to spend, spend, spend come free agency near the end of this decade.
And most likely, they will have to, if they want to make a speedy turnaround and become true contenders again. Stripping your farm system is a self-repeating prophecy, and forces you to quickly spend even more money when you once again want to improve quickly, as the cupboard of draft picks and prospects is already pretty bare.
The Nets, meanwhile, seem determined not to repeat their past mistakes, at least not right away. With the Cavs and the Warriors with a seeming vice grip on the battle for the NBA crown, they’ll bide their time , and wait for the ramifications of moves from a GM that was finally, mercifully relieved of his duties last season to run their course.
Then, come 2019 (!) when they once again control the rights to their own first round pick, they’ll hope to land a good spot via the lottery and build organically through the draft. Well, that’s the stated agenda anyway. Just ask the Sixers and Sam Hinkie how easy “the process” is.
For all their differences, the Brooklyn basketball and Bronx baseball teams will have quite a lot in common during the next few years. That is, until they won’t again.
When the dust settles, we’ll see if history prevails or if its finally time for the new kids in town to have their moment in the sun.