Carnesseca Arena was buzzing last Friday night, and it had nothing to do with St. John’s.
The New Jersey Nets were in town, hosting the Philadelphia 76ers in Jamaica Queens in a game that had as much to do about courting new fans as it did about basketball.
The Nets, who are planning to move to Brooklyn in two seasons, are watching their fan base erode over in Jersey while the New Yorkers bicker over the fate of the Atlantic yards. In the meantime, the Nets find themselves needing to find new fans elsewhere.
The solution? Queens, a borough so hungry for a second hyper-local sports team that talk of an NHL arena for the sad-sack Islanders is gaining buzz.
Think Queens is a Knicks town? Tell that to the 3,284 people that showed up Friday to watch the Nets destroy the Sixers.
Let me put that attendance figure another way; almost 2,500 more people showed up to the same arena to watch the Nets get their first win of the PRESEASON than they did to watch the St. John’s men’s basketball destroy NJIT and get off to an impressive 7-1 start last season.
The night was clearly a win-win-win; the Nets picked up a strong victory and made inroads to developing a new following, St. John’s picked up nice publicity and showed off its swanky new arena, and fans in Queens got to see pro basketball without having to sit on the E train for an hour and wear paper bags over their heads in Madison Square Garden.
The Nets would be wise to continue to make an effort here. Queens is as basketball crazy a place as they come. Brooklyn may have produced head cases Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, but Queens gave us Anthony Mason and Ron Artest (see, we can make our own head cases too!)
Lincoln High School may have all the press, but Christ the King, and Archbishop Molloy are no slouches either.
Lance Stephenson? Meet Russ Smith.
So let’s hope that even after the move to Brooklyn is completed, the Nets continue to show Queens some love. After all; 2.4 million people have to spend their money on season tickets somewhere, right?