Our big feature on the Nets and Barclays Center, after months of fits and stops, finally ran in the magazine this week. We hope you enjoy it. Even at 4,000 words, there were lots of observations and narrative potpourri we couldn't fit in there, so we thought we'd throw it in this here post. Consider it sort of a DVD Extras post. So here, as Time's James Poniewozik puts it, are the hail of bullets.
* We talked to a ton of people for this story, but without question, the most pleasant and affable person we talked to was ... Bruce Ratner. The controversial — to say the least — real estate magnate is not known for this warmth and cuddliness, but in all honesty, his aw-shucks demeanor was disarming, to say the least. (This is not entirely because he thought our son was cute, though he did and that never hurts.) We don't know if he'll be happy with everything that's in the story, but for a guy who had a whole theatrical documentary made about how awful he is, we were surprised by how likable we found him in person.
* We got a full tour of Barclays Center back in November, but it's currently August, so that tour was a little outdated. We haven't been back inside since, but we would like to note that our favorite feature of the place is still the public practice court. Located just down the hall from the locker room, and a concourse below where the “regular” fans will enter the stadium (who can witness from above), the regular Nets practice court will be on full display. (Courtside Club seat holders will have access to the level of that court.) You shouldn’t expect to see actual Nets practicing there on gameday — the team says it’ll likely build another, off-site practice arena, similar to how the Knicks practice in Westchester; this year, by the way, the Nets will still be practicing in East Rutherford — but you can count on exhibition games going on before and maybe after games, from local high schools and elementary schools. There will certainly be entertainment options going on. It’s the most striking, unique feature of the new Barclays Center: We've never seen an arena do anything like that before. But the Nets never make a big deal out of this, which makes us think it's not going to be as large a part of the new arena as we think it will be.
* Note that the story consistently refers to the new building as "Barclays Center" not "the Barclays Center." The Nets insist on this nomenclature, so we stuck with it, but we're not sure we buy it. From our experience, baseball stadiums never get the definite article, football stadiums almost always do and basketball/hockey arenas mostly do.
* Back in December, we did get to talk to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, on the phone, from Russia, right before he ran for president of Russia. His English is spotty, and he talks really fast, and we were on an iPhone, so large swaths of the interview were unusable. Which made the stuff that he emphasized that much more noteworthy. Prokhorov often gives interviews and says crazy things so offhandedly that you wonder if it's a translation issue, but the quote we used from him in the piece — when he called Jim Dolan "a little man" — is something he repeated to us three times, to make sure we got it. The guy knows what he's doing.
* It's worth noting that the piece might come across a little harder on Prokhorov that we might intend. He did make a lot of free agent mistakes -- or, more accurately, vastly overestimated what his wealth could buy -- but the guy is spending money like crazy and doesn't care about any luxury tax business. That's the type of owner a fan wants his/her team to have.
* We did not talk to Jay-Z. Sorry.
* We may end up going to one of the Jay-Z shows, but for now, barring the NHL lockout wiping everything away, our first Barclays Center event will be the Islanders-Devils game on October 2. The first show we really want to see is Bob Dylan on November 21, but we're going to be out of town. Stupid Thanksgiving.
* The Nets' offices are in Metrotech, the much-maligned Forest City Ratner complex in downtown Brooklyn. We actually live about a block from Metrotech and generally like the place, even though when you're in it, Brooklyn is virtually indistinguishable from, say, Omaha.
* Oh, about hockey: The Nets insist that even though the arena is almost cartoonishly incompatible for hockey, they will be making a big push for the New York Islanders when their lease is up. And they won't have to change anything about the building either. “We think we can get a hockey team without any major adjustments,” CEO Brett Yormark told me.
* We spent an usually long time trying to come up with the last line for the piece, which (spoiler alert!) is "play ball." Obviously, that's a baseball term, but we couldn't figure out a basketball term equivalent. "Game on!" "Let's tip it off!" Basketball needs its own version of "play ball," we've decided.
* There has been some discussion that we were too friendly to the Nets and some discussion that we were too mean. While we're wary of saying "if we pissed off both sides, that must mean we did something right" — it's that sort of artificial-balance oversimplification that leads to the false equivalence that drives people crazy about journalism — we do think that this whole deal is larger than both "what about the eminent domain?" and "go Nets go Nets go Nets GO!" We tried to reflect that dichotomy in the story and still make it entertaining to read. It is odd that everyone expects every piece to be a polemic anymore.