The idea of seeing an NBA franchise in Brooklyn, five minutes from where he grew up as a playground star, still mystifies Jazz guard Jamaal Tinsley. He is not alone. Last season, the team's bus driver was so disoriented that Tinsley had to rush to the front and give directions.
"He was taking us all the way to Red Hook. I'm like, 'There are no hotels over there.' We ended up making it back, safe," Tinsley said before the Jazz played the Nets at Barclays Center Tuesday night. The crowd included 28 of his special guests, featuring 9-year-old Jamaal Jr.
"This is real special for my son to see this. Friends and family have been seeing this for a while, but my son is older now, he understands this. It's real good to let him see what I do before games, see how players get ready for a game, hear guys arguing," he said, laughing, as a couple of teammates were riding each other. "It's good for him to see this."
The elder Tinsley, 35, was only a few years older than his son is now when he made a name for himself on the street for his basketball. The problem he had was that, when his peers grew older and went to high school, Tinsley stayed on the street. He briefly attended Tilden, but never played ball there. He stood out for the Brooklyn USA AAU team, then decided to make a go of it. He went to Mount San Jacinto Junior College in California, then Iowa State and began a long and admired career in the NBA.
Tinsley has come a long way to play five minutes from where he used to live. "It takes me back, to see how the NBA is growing, to get a team here and for me to last this long, to play in front of family and friends and my son, is an honor," he said.
Having been a free agent last summer, he had some thoughts about coming back home. "Who wouldn't? Who wouldn't want to play in a Brooklyn uniform, when you're from Brooklyn," he said. "My agent did all that, I let him take care of that."
But the Nets signed Shaun Livingston instead and Tinsley re-signed with the Jazz. He knows this could be his last time around, so he is looking to savor it -- just like Jamaal Jr. was enjoying a tub of popcorn, sitting at his father's locker stall, among Jazz players, while his dad made his final preparations before the tip.
"It's the best, to get an opportunity to play in the Barclays Center," the veteran guard from Brooklyn said. "I don't take anything for granted."