Monday, February 25, 2013

Memphis Grizzlies 76 at Brooklyn Nets 72 - February 24, 2013

After a slightly delayed flight from Dallas, I arrived in New York City with plenty of time to head over to Brooklyn to see the newest stadium among the 122 big 4 sports venues, the Barclays Center. The Memphis Grizzlies were in town and my friends Gary and the King from Royalty Tours would be there, choosing this game over the Knicks, Islanders, and Devils who were all at home around the same time.

Barclays Center

Located on Atlantic Avenue, Barclays Center is just 3 miles from downtown Manhattan making it a very short subway ride, about the same distance from Wall Street as Madison Square Garden. The first thing you might notice as you approach from the subway exit is the Ebbets Field flagpole at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush. Look beyond and you might find it hard to believe they've put a full scale stadium right in the middle of the block, but as you can see below, they have. It is really a fascinating place from the outside and looks more like a fine arts venue than a basketball arena.

Inside is a different story. First, you have to have your bags checked, then you are wanded, and then you get your ticket scanned before you can stand on the open plaza, which has a clear view of the floor but is so crowded that you'll want to quickly escape. The concourse has charging stations for those whose phones are running low on battery as well as ATMs that have no withdrawal fee, something very useful for international travelers such as myself. Walking around, you will notice dozens of concessions, each with traditional Brooklyn favourites but the prices are outrageous. I saw sandwiches selling for $15.75 which is what an entree should cost at a quality restaurant. I guess Nets fans are loaded, but I am not, so I signed up for the designated driver and got a free popcorn instead.

I briefly made my way inside the seating bowl to snap the picture above but you can't walk down into the seats without a ticket. So I wandered back to the concourse where there is a display on the Black Fives that was only installed a couple of weeks ago for Black History Month. It should remain as it makes a fairly drab spot much more interesting.

Gary had secured me an upper deck ticket at a discount, but without his services, I would have paid $35 at the box office for the cheapest seats, again somewhat overpriced. After completing my tour of the lower level, I took the escalator up to the 200 level bypassing the club section, although from the escalator you can look down and see the buffet options available to those with club tickets. When I walked into the upper seating bowl, I had to squint to see the row and seat numbers since it is very dark as you can tell in the photo below. During the game, there is no point trying to read the program or score the game, unless you have a small flashlight to help you see.

The Nets have moved their banners over from the Prudential Center (and the Brendan Byrne Arena before that) including a couple of ABA championship ones (below). There are also six retired Net numbers on display and a banner for Jay-Z, a Brooklyn native who is a part owner of the team and who celebrated the opening of the arena with eight consecutive sold out concerts.

The upper concourse has far fewer concessions so if you do want to be fleeced for your supper, better to choose something from the lower level. There is a 40/40 Club (again co-owned by Jay-Z), an upscale sports bar which is open to the public both before and after the game but I had seen enough of the prices so I didn't bother checking it out.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed in the Barclays Center. After my trip to Texas where I saw four NBA venues, I had high expectations but found that this is an average stadium with little to make me return. Particularly the game I witnessed.

The Game

Ugh. They don't get much worse than this. The Grizzlies and Nets are two of the slowest-paced teams in the league and it showed. Both squads milked the clock, took bad shots as a result, and left the crowd in a torpor for most of the contest. The Nets shot under 36% from inside the arc and committed at least four 24-second violations, perhaps a sign of good Grizzly defense or more likely, a sign of bad Net offense.

Deron Williams (#8, above) was the star for the Nets with some great plays, going 9-15 for 24 points (exactly 1/3 of their total), while Zach Randolph (shooting below) led the Grizzlies with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Despite only scoring 76 points, the Grizzlies managed to get all five starters into double figures - a craptacular team effort!

The game had 12 lead changes and was tied 5 times, which sounds exciting. Not really. Brooklyn had a 72-67 lead with 2:50 to play but missed their next four shots while Memphis scored 7 straight points. Down by two, the Nets had one last chance to tie it up, but Williams made a terrible pass instead of shooting. Tayshaun Prince who was the recipient of the gift pass, quickly threw the ball over to Mike Conley who was fouled. Conley sank the free throws to make the final 76-72.

After this stinker, don't advertise upcoming games

Remember that game in Houston I saw last week? The score was 122-119, or 241 total points. This game had just 148. No wonder Grizzly fans have stopped coming out to their games in Memphis, they are simply not a fun team to watch even when they win. As for Net fans, who can blame their lack of enthusiasm tonight, their team was simply not very interesting.


The 3-hour flight from Dallas was on a CR9, where the R stands for regional, which means small (just 76 seats). I am surprised that they are using such tiny planes for flights that can hardly be described as regional. The flight was delayed 40 minutes due to a late arriving aircraft, but after a quick boarding process, we left just 20 minutes behind schedule. I had been upgraded and had a nice window seat without having the wing block part of the view. After takeoff, we flew directly over the American Airlines Center where the Mavericks were getting ready to host the Lakers, and I had a great view of SMU's football stadium, where I saw a game back in November 2011. We passed south of Little Rock and stayed parallel to I-40 briefly before veering northeast, where clouds eventually moved in. It was my first upgrade in several years and a nice way to end the Texas trip.

Next Up

I had no plan for Monday but Gary told me that there was an NCAA basketball game in Newark with Seton Hall hosting Villanova. It was the only game in town and I'm glad I went as it turned out to have an amazing finish. I'll have a post on that tomorrow.

I also plan to see the Knicks and Warriors on Wednesday at MSG, but that will be it for New York City. This weekend I finish the trip with a a couple of hockey games in Buffalo and Brampton, so check back for updates on that as usual..



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