Capitals

Brooklyn returns to pro sports with Nets opener

Brooklyn returns to pro sports with Nets opener

NEW YORK (AP) Brooklyn returned to major pro sports on Saturday, welcomed back by some beloved former stars and ready to embrace the Nets the way it once did the Dodgers.

The Nets played their delayed first regular-season game at Barclays Center, two days after they were supposed to open against the New York Knicks. That was postponed by Superstorm Sandy that heavily damaged the city's mass-transit system, but the building seemed nearly full during a lively pregame ceremony despite lingering transportation troubles.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said he was honored to ``celebrate the resiliency of this community'' and to ``welcome Brooklyn, USA to the NBA.''

The Nets are the first major pro sports team to play in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957. Former Dodgers Ralph Branca and Joe Pignatano, a Brooklyn native, and Gil Hodges, Jr., whose father starred with the Dodgers, exchanged jerseys with Nets players.

The Nets were completely rebranded after moving from New Jersey, where they spent 35 years, with a new logo and black-and-white color scheme. Plagued by poor attendance during their final years in Jersey and rarely beloved in any of them, they may not have that problem in Brooklyn.

``Brooklyn is Brooklyn and Manhattan is New York, and Brooklyn has always been considered second class to Manhattan. But that's only Manhattan's thinking. Brooklyn's the best,'' Branca said. ``I mean, the fans were the greatest, and I anticipate with the advent of the Nets coming here, a major league franchise coming here, they're going to have fans that are major league fans. If anything like the Dodgers fans, the Brooklyn Nets fans will be the same, loyal to the end.''

Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has vowed he will give Brooklyn a winner, saying when he bought the team his goal was to win a title in five years. The billionaire bachelor joked that since he's two years into his ownership and said he'd get married if he didn't meet his deadline that he was ``maybe the most devoted guy for the championship.''

But he was serious when talking about the effects of Sandy, which caused devastation around the region. Prokhorov flew to New York on Friday, feeling it was important to be here, and saying the disappointment over not being able to open with the highly anticipated game against the Knicks was ``nothing compared to what people have suffered last few days.''

``To those who made it out tonight for the game, thank you for the extra effort. And for those who wanted to be but couldn't, and maybe they are listening on the radio or watching on the TV, we really hope to take your mind off of problems for a few hours and really we are very glad you're with us in spirit,'' Prokhorov said during a pregame press conference.

``I think it's a great credit to this country and to the city that the game will go on in spite of all the problems.''

The Dodgers players recalled that owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new stadium to replace Ebbets Field right across the street from the site where Barclays Center is on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, right above the Long Island Rail Road. That never materialized and they ended up moving across the country.

Brooklyn's been waiting for a team of its own ever since.

``I think it's a great day for the community,'' Prokhorov said.

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Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

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USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

Tarik: The term ‘Stanley Cup Hangover’ exists because, well, it’s a real thing. And the Caps, like all teams that battle into early June, are vulnerable to suffering from it next season.

Why? Think about it. No. 1, the core group just completed the longest season—106 games—of their lives (and, somewhere, the party is still going). No. 2, the top guys aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. No. 3, human nature.

A little more on that last one. Alex Ovechkin and Co. have spent the entirety of their professional hockey careers chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And now they have it. At long last. Hoisting the Cup was as much a moment to cherish as it was a gigantic relief for a team that had been labeled perennial underachievers. Shifting gears from that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment back to hunger and determination is difficult.

Something else that worries me a bit? They don’t have experience dealing with a truncated offseason. Rest and recovery matter. And they aren’t going to get much of either this summer.

All that said, they don’t have to stumble through the 2018-19 season. If you're looking at things from the optimist's point of view, the Cup run did something for Ovechkin and his teammates that none of the previous failures could: It showed them EXACTLY what it takes to play deep into the spring.

Eleven out of 12 forwards from the championship squad are expected back. Five of six defensemen and the goalie are returning, as well. Sure, they’ve got a new head coach, but he’s been here for four years already, giving him a huge advantage over a bench boss who’s starting from scratch. So there’s continuity and chemistry already built in.

I look at it like this: The core guys who’ve been around a while—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby, etc.—have a rare opportunity before them. After coming up short for so many years, they’ve been gifted an extraordinary chance to make up for lost time over the next 12-24 months. In fact, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Eller, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Kempny and Holtby have two more years together, as a core, before the next round of tough decisions will need to be made.

But it’s going to be up to them. Are they going to be satisfied with one Cup? Or will they get greedy? I’m betting on the latter.

Regan: The Capitals could enter next season hungry, motivated, in the right mindset, completely prepared in every way to avoid a Cup hangover and it may still happen. Why? Because the Capitals (and Vegas for that matter) will enter next season with less time to rest, recover and prepare after a grueling playoff run than any other team in the NHL.

First things first, no, I do not think the Caps will struggle because they are are partying too hard this summer and won't be ready for the start of the season.

It took a long time Washington to finally reach the top of the mountain. It won't be lost on Alex Ovechkin, or any of the veterans, that the year he came into training camp early and in really good shape, that was the year he was able to lead his team to the promised land. Considering all the struggles, all the early playoff exits, all the years it took to finally win, I expect the veterans will look at how they prepared last season and take that lesson to heart going into camp. Those players will enter the fall in as good a shape as the time they have this offseason will allow them to be.

But this team is not just composed of veterans of the Ovechkin era who suffered through all of those postseason struggles.

What about the youngsters? Will Jakub Vrana have the same motivation as Ovechkin or a Nicklas Backstrom to show up to camp ready next season? What about Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey? If any of the team's young players aren't exactly in "game shape" by the fall, they won't be the first and they certainly won't be the last to struggle with early career playoff success.

There's also a new head coach to consider. In a lot of ways, I think coming into the season with a new coach in Todd Reirden will help. I don't expect too much adjustment under a coach the team knows very well, but I do expect more motivation at the start of the regular season than you usually see from a team coming off a championship.

There are a lot of reasons why the Caps could actually avoid a Cup hangover, but the fact is that time puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they overcome all the other factors, there's nothing they can do to suddenly give themselves more time to recover and to train. For that reason alone, I do expect a few early-season struggles from the defending champs.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Ranking the 2018 Redskins Roster: Revealing 31-53

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Various sources

Ranking the 2018 Redskins Roster: Revealing 31-53

<< Go here to see our ranking of the 2018 Redskins, players 31-53. >>

At NBCSportsWashington.com, we projected the Redskins’ 53-man roster (offensedefense) right after minicamp. Now we are taking it one step further and ranking the 53 players we think will make the team.

The rankings are determined by who we think will have the most impact on the 2018 Redskins. No consideration was given for past performance or for what a particular player might do down the road. We’ll be revealing the rankings between now and the start of training camp. 

Today we’re starting up the list with the players we ranked from 31-53, Here are some of the players in our latest update:

—Seven of the team’s draft picks, including the pick they made last week.     

—All three specialists.

—The team’s leading rusher from 2017.   

Go here to see our ranking of the 2018 Redskins, players 31-53