Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
Well, we know this for sure: The Nets have won July -- in a blowout.
That was evident Thursday at an elaborate news conference starring three future Hall of Famers (one of whom now is the coach), personalized cakes for the newcomers, live coverage on YES and WFAN and a surprise visit from owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
The arrival of the wisecracking oligarch was timely, because beforehand the men on stage looked like a promising lineup for a 35-and-over league but one that could use another big man.
Voilà! The 6-8 Prokhorov materialized alongside Kevin Garnett. Put Paul Pierce at small forward and Jason Terry and coach Jason Kidd in the backcourt, with GM Billy King coming off the bench, and now we're talking.
Alas, the Nets play in the NBA, not the YMCA, so when the summer sizzle cools off come mid-autumn they will face reality in the form of conference rivals led by Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Paul George, all of whom currently are under 30.
As the Knicks and Yankees have discovered already in 2013, old guys tend to get hurt -- and stay hurt -- no matter how impressive they look in suits and headlines.
True, the Nets are not asking Garnett, 37, Pierce, 35 and Terry, 35, to carry a team that is built around players still in their primes such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. But no one at Barclays Center shied away from the notion the relocated Celtics can and should put the Nets over the top as title contenders.
"Without a doubt, that's the expectation here," Pierce said. "We're not talking about the Eastern Conference finals. We're not talking about best record. We're talking about a championship."
Prokhorov, 48, was similarly optimistic, to the point he seemed unconcerned about a long-ago vow to get married if the Nets didn't win a championship by 2015.
"I have two years left," he said. "I can assure you that no process for the time being of looking for a wife is under way."
Prokhorov was in vintage form on a variety of topics, including comparing Kidd to Tom Cruise's character in the 1986 film "Top Gun," which he joked had finally arrived in Russia only a week ago.
On the massive luxury tax hit awaiting the Nets: "I just hope the check doesn't bounce."
On the increasingly intriguing rivalry with the Knicks: "I think it will be a great thing for both teams and everyone will be thirsting for those games."
On pushing the outer limits of the NBA salary-cap system: "I want to stress once again, like with the luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win a championship -- but under the NBA rules. Please make no mistake about this."
Prokhorov ended with a playful jab at his Knicks counterpart, saying, "I am very lucky that my new players are familiar to a New York audience and I think it will be a great anticipation when the teams meet. I want to congratulate James Dolan. He is watching us for the time being."
For the time being everyone is, which of course is part of the point. The Nets want and need the attention. But there will be a price to pay -- not only in salary and luxury tax but in overtime for the medical staff.
Will the Nets limit the veterans' minutes? "These guys won't have to play 35 to 38 minutes," said Kidd, 40, who faded down the stretch as a Knick in the spring. "My job is to watch the clock, keep these guys' minutes down."
Kidd said he will keep in mind the bigger picture, which is having these guys available and useful for the playoffs. That includes mid-to-late June, according to the Nets' plan. Good luck with that. Winning July is the easy part.