The Nets lined up buses to run from Manhattan on Saturday, and fans got a boost when some subways began running from Manhattan. The storm's effects were evident at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center transit complex — water damage on the floor, escalators shut off — but there was a huge crowd in the plaza outside the arena before the game and the building appeared mostly full long before a lively pregame ceremony.
Commissioner David Stern turned boos into cheers when he announced it was honor "welcome Brooklyn, USA to the NBA." Former Brooklyn Dodgers Ralph Branca, and Joe Pignatano, along with Gil Hodges, Jr., whose father was a star with the beloved Dodgers before they moved to Los Angeles, exchanged jerseys with some Nets players.
The Nets are completely rebranded after 35 years in New Jersey, with a new logo, black-and-white color scheme, and a new mascot called "BrooklyKnight" who was introduced.
Most importantly, they think they'll have a fan base. Never truly loved during while bouncing around multiple homes in Jersey after leaving Long Island, Branca said the Nets will find the same loyal fans in Brooklyn that backed the Dodgers.
The Nets believe they've built a playoff team after re-signing Williams, trading for Johnson and re-signing starters Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the Nets have the "best arena in the NBA and a competitive team."
He said when he bought the team his goal was to win a title in five years. The billionaire bachelor joked that since he's two years into his ownership and said he'd get married if he didn't meet his deadline that he was "maybe the most devoted guy for the championship."
Williams made a jumper for the first Barclays basket, but Toronto shot 62.5 percent in the first quarter and led 35-27. The Nets outscored the Raptors 33-17 in the second, forcing eight turnovers, and led 60-52 at halftime.
"That was a big quarter, a stretch of mistakes there. One stretch that got us in the second quarter," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Again, we fought our way back into position even with that bad quarter. We put ourselves in position to win. We got to close it out."
Williams put it away with four free throws in the final 20 seconds.
Reggie Evans had 13 rebounds in just 16 minutes off the Nets' bench.
Notes: Wallace hurt his left ankle trying to block a shot in the final minutes. X-rays were negative and the Nets said he was day to day. ... Nets reserve Josh Childress sat out with a sore left ankle and Avery Johnson said he doubted Childress would play Monday against Minnesota, either. ... The Nets evened the all-times series at 33-33.
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