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Ian Eagle enjoying Nets' ride to Brooklyn

Nets' Deron Williams shoots against Philadelphia 76ers' Spencer

Nets' Deron Williams shoots against Philadelphia 76ers' Spencer Hawes (00) as Jrue Holiday (11) watches. (March 11, 2013) Credit: AP

The reality of being a Nets play-by-play man hit home for Ian Eagle several years into his term when he would run into people who would praise him for his work on WFAN and ask him what he was doing these days.

“Oh, I’m a pediatrician,’’ he jokingly recalled saying. “I’ve changed careers entirely. So I realized the Nets games were not resonating. That’s not the case anymore. People know we’re out there, and it’s been great.’’

Not even during the runs to the NBA Finals in 2002 and ’03 did the Nets seem as important as they have since the move to Brooklyn, especially now that they are challenging the Knicks for first place.

“It’s been a different world entirely,’’ said Eagle, 44, who began calling Nets games on radio in 1994-95. “The fact that people care about the franchise, that people actually are watching the games and paying attention, is a novelty.’’

Eagle said he is particularly happy for behind-the-scenes figures on YES’ Nets crew, including producer Frank DiGraci and director Jon Wilson.

By the way, Eagle and his Nets analyst, Jim Spanarkel, will work their 16th NCAA Tournament together – CBS’ longest-running such team.

“That’s a long stretch of Eagle-Spanarkel,’’ Eagle said.

Does Spanarkel get his quirky sense of humor? “Oh, yeah, I’d say 92 percent of the time he gets me. There’s still an 8 percent window where he may not understand my reference.’’

New York Sports