Jay-Z might have christened the Barclays Center with eight sold out concerts over the past two weeks but, on Sunday, it was the arena's main tenants the Brooklyn Nets who got a chance to break in their new home.
It must have seemed appropriate to the Nets players that Beyonce helped her husband close his final show Saturday night because their new venue is definitely an upgrade.
The Nets practiced at the Barclays Center for the first time yesterday and had nothing but raves for the new state-of-the-art home building. Some players even threw in a couple of back-handed parting shots at their last home court in Newark.
"I've never seen anything like it," said forward Kris Humphries. "Everything is so much bigger and nicer than what we're used to."
That had to hurt the feelings of the Prudential Center — often blamed for the Nets miserable home court record over the past few seasons — which was dumped for the more luxurious 19,000-seat Barclays Center. Players blamed their home losses on everything from the puny locker room to the temperature of the arena to the scant fans who showed up and rooted for the away teams.
There are no excuses anymore.
The upgrades include a spacious, modern locker room, a players lounge and an arena specifically built for the NBA players.
"It's not built for hockey, it's not built for soccer," said guard Deron Williams about the $1 billion structure. "It's built for basketball.
"It's very comfortable. It's not a makeshift locker room like we had in Jersey."
It didn't matter to the players that they didn't even get to dribble the ball on the Nets new distinct herringbone pattern floor they will use during NBA games. Instead they utilized the secondary floor that will be the playing surface for anyone but the primary tenants — the Nets.
"It's very important for us to get used to our home," said head coach Avery Johnson. "We want to feel comfortable playing here on opening night."
Johnson's dry run for the team was a good opportunity for the players to check out the locker room and lounge, get used to the court's shooting sight lines and get familiar with commuting to the downtown Brooklyn arena — no easy feat by Escalade. Even Jay-Z took the R-train to his final show.
Everything seemed perfect except one thing. Johnson pointed out one small issue with the sunlight shining onto the court through an open entrance — a problem with afternoon games. Even the black curtains draped over the opening didn't help.
"Once they figure out how to not let any light get in here, especially on afternoon games, that's one of the things we're going to have to make sure we take care of," said Johnson. "But other than that, I think everything is pretty good."
It sure beats a shoebox-sized locker room in a home built for hockey out in Jersey.