Deron Williams isn’t sure if he’ll be able to keep his emotions in check tonight.
“I might shed a tear,” the Nets’ All-Star point guard said Monday morning.
Williams had a wry smile, but there’s no doubt the Nets are thrilled to finally play their first game in their new $1 billion arena. For the first two weeks of its official existence, the Barclays Center was home to just about everyone but the Nets.
That changes tonight, though, when they host the Wizards in their preseason home opener.
“Everybody is super excited,” Joe Johnson said before the team’s shootaround on their practice court inside the arena. “I think we all feel as though this is a fresh start. We want to make the best of it. We want to get off to a great start. We’ve had a great training camp. We’ve just got to keep working hard to get better each day.”
Avery Johnson could barely contain his enthusiasm.
“It’s been quite a few sleepless nights for our coaching staff and it’s not because necessarily because anything’s wrong,” he said. “It’s just you are excited. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Even though it’s a preseason game, it’s still our first game in Brooklyn in the Barclays Center, and that means a lot for so many people.
“So we are glad to be a part of it.”
For Johnson, who’s had to endure a pair losing seasons just to get to this particular point, tonight has a little added significance.
“When you’ve been selling vision and patience,” Johnson said, “and all of those things for my two years since I’ve been where, and talking about this arena and having some sort of homecourt advantage, we are here now. So, it will be pretty interesting to see what type of crowd we get tonight. I’ve heard we are going to have a nice crowd and I’m sure they are going to be into it.
“We heard some ‘Brooklyn’ chants in Atlantic City [Saturday night], which we haven’t heard much of a chant for us at all on the road. So that will be pretty nice.”
Something else that’ll be pretty nice? When the Nets actually know where everything is in the building. They haven’t had much of an opportunity to sample the arena’s “basketball campus,” which includes the weight room, training room, player’s lounge and practice court.
Johnson, for now, will settle for some office decorations.
“I was just telling Tim our trainer, ‘We are not there yet,’ ” Johnson said. “I don’t have any pictures in my office. We’ve still got some stuff in boxes. We’re not there yet, but we hope to be there when the regular season starts. Really, it’s like moving into a house. When you move in, you are not all the way there yet when you first get there for the first month. You still have some stuff to move around.
“But the player’s locker room, that’s the most comfortable part about our whole campus.”
In just a few hours, they’ll start getting acquainted with their distinctive herringbone-patterned floor. Ironically, the Wizards may have more of a feel for the court since they shot around on the Nets’ main floor while the home team was relegated to its practice court.
“We are just excited,” Williams said. “We are excited about being in this building and having a chance to play here. It’s been a long time coming for a lot of people, so we are excited to get out there and play.”