The start of the playoffs always is an exciting time of year after navigating the long slog of the regular season, but there was an extra level of anticipation for the Nets as they approached Game 1 of the first round against the Celtics simply because they knew there would be far more fans in Barclays Center on Saturday night than at any point during this pandemic-plagued season.
The season began with zero fans in the house, and that later increased to approximately 1,775, which is about 10 percent of normal capacity. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted regulations restricting public gatherings, and the Nets admitted what was considered a sellout crowd of 14,391 fans of whom 93% were vaccinated.
"It’s going to be amazing playing in front of that many fans," veteran forward Jeff Green said. "Last time I played in front of that many fans, it had to be over a year ago before COVID. It’s going to feel amazing."
Landry Shamet, another first-year Net like Green, seconded that emotion. "Guys want to play in front of fans," Shamet said. "This is what makes high-level basketball and the NBA. We want fans. We want to have that atmosphere, the energy. But at the end of the day, even in the bubble [at Disney World in Orlando where last season’s playoffs took place], the stakes were the same."
For the first time all season, every concession stand in the arena was open, and courtside seating opposite the benches went four rows deep instead of a few scattered seats that were set up at floor level during the regular season.
"The crowd situation is great," said first-time head coach Steve Nash. "I think it’s a great reward for everyone. It’s one of those things the game, our sport, our league, just misses. This is about the fans as much as anything. It’s a reward for the players. We can’t wait to play for our city and our fans and play hard and make them proud."