Knicks, Nets Offer Contrasting Media Strategies
A 2009 episode of “Mad Men” titled “Love Among the Ruins” dealt with the reconstruction of New York’s Penn Station to make way for the present day Madison Square Garden with the newer version of Penn Station tucked below.
Citizens were outraged over the plans to demolish one of the most indelible icons of the city, but ultimately, they didn’t really have a say. The plan was going ahead with or without public support.
And while those in charge of the project sought out an ad campaign to squelch the protests, main character Don Draper swung in with his usual brand of logic.
“Your concern over public opinion shows a guilty conscience,” Draper said, suggesting that an ad campaign could inadvertently serve to fuel the fire.
It’s a line of thought that the Knicks—the present-day tenants of the new Madison Square Garden—have embraced this offseason.
Owner James Dolan, general manager Glen Grunwald and coach Mike Woodson have remained completely silent on the subject of Jeremy Lin since the Knicks refused to match his offer from the Houston Rockets.
Fans and media have offered explanations: the looming luxury tax situation, Lin’s chemistry with Carmelo Anthony, Lin’s refusal to sign with Creative Artists Agency, Dolan’s objection to the way the process was handled by Lin’s representatives.
We don’t know why Lin is no longer a Knick, but we do know that it doesn’t seem to make a difference to the bottom line.
Lin’s departure didn’t stop Madison Square Garden stock from hitting an all-time high of 39.39 on Monday and it won’t stop Dolan from selling tickets at prices that would make small countries blush.
In part, that’s because Lin’s exit—and the entire Linsanity epidemic—was nothing but another dot on the Knicks’ lengthy timeline. These fans have seen Patrick Ewing in a Seattle SuperSonics uniform, so they’re not going to jump ship just because Lin left town. As Draper explained, “Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”
(On a side note, Lin’s departure could be a good thing for everyone involved. He played his best away when Anthony was out with a groin injury in February and Anthony was at his best when Lin went down with a knee injury in late March)
But there’s more than just player movement afoot in New York’s basketball landscape. For the first time in their 66-year history, the Knicks will share the city with another NBA team.
And unlike the incumbents, who remain silent as Lin leaves for Houston or as Jason Kidd gets arrested on Long Island, the Brooklyn Nets are eager to have a conversation with fans and the media, any conversation.
The Nets threw themselves a party at Borough Hall to announce the signing of “Brooklyn’s Backcourt,” Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Then they took their black and white balloons over to the downtown Brooklyn Marriott to announce the re-signing of Brook Lopez. Keep in mind, only one of the aforementioned players was actually a new addition to the team.
President and CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Brett Yormark has remained one of the most accessible executives in sports and the Nets even have “The Experience” mobile unit, which drives around the city to promote the team’s arrival.
The Nets’ eagerness to be liked extends throughout the organization.
In my four years of covering the Knicks, I’ve never met Dolan. I’ve walked by him in the halls of MSG occasionally, but I’ve met Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov several times. Why is it that an international business and political figure, with interests all over the globe, is so keen on shaking my hand? (Yes, Prokhorov does like the media spotlight.)
Things, obviously, weren’t always this way for the Nets. Aside from the Kidd era, the team regularly received bad press when they played on the other side of the Hudson River. But in moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn, the Nets took another important piece of advice from Draper: “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”
Now the Nets are being discussed as a threat in the Eastern Conference and as a cultural phenomenon. For those who haven’t been to Brooklyn recently, the team’s logo is everywhere—billboards, t-shirts, hats, etc.—and there’s no better promotion than the erection of the Nets’ new arena on Atlantic Ave.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have responded by renovating their arena and possibly changing their uniforms (a report on Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos News site said a video game image was leaked to YouTube that depicted the Knicks’ new uniforms for the 2012-2013 season).
Quietly, the Knicks are beginning to react to the presence of the Nets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll change the way they do business.
Madison Square Garden will still sell out, with or without Lin. The team doesn’t have to address the subject to appease fans, because fans continue to pour into the arena.
The truth is the Knicks don’t have to work as hard because fans have made it easy for the franchise. Eddy Curry could be re-signed tomorrow and Spike Lee would still be sitting courtisde at the home opener.
Maybe the Nets will have that same luxury in the next 60 years, but for now, they’re the only basketball team in town that has to work this hard.