Nets are cool, and think they'll be a winner, too

Nets are cool, and think they'll be a winner, too

NEW YORK (AP) The Nets are suddenly cool.

They're the ugly duckling turned beauty after a remarkable makeover, the longtime laughingstock that transformed into the NBA's ``it'' team.

Their new home is beautiful, their redesigned uniforms sharp. They've got famous friends of the program and an unmistakable buzz all around the franchise.

Life in Brooklyn sure is different than it was in New Jersey.

And the Nets say they're not going to shrink in the unfamiliar spotlight.

``I think at some point we're going to have to be a little immune to it, but we know at the same time it's a good problem to have,'' coach Avery Johnson said. ``There's been so many jokes and laughter as it relates to our team and our lack of success and winning, so that goes with the territory. There's a greater responsibility and we would prefer to have it this way. Not being in the spotlight, not playing on national TV and all of the things that other teams experience is not good. So playing on TV, being in the spotlight, having more pressure to win, that's a better place to be.''

So is Brooklyn.

The Nets believe the $1 billion Barclays Center, which opened in September, will be the kind of place fans want to be, a building that will give them a home-court advantage they never had in New Jersey. They waited years to get here, following their lengthy stay in East Rutherford with two years in Newark while awaiting Barclays' completion.

The move back to New York, where the Nets become Brooklyn's first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957, has come with wall-to-wall coverage. They landed on the cover of ``Sports Illustrated'' and on NBA TV as the feature of this season's ``The Association,'' a behind-the-scenes view at an NBA team. The first public look at their new black-and-white uniforms with ``BROOKLYN'' across the chest came when Jay-Z, a part-owner of the team, wore the jersey during one of his Barclays concerts.

People are talking about the Nets like never before, and the players are aware that won't last if they don't win games.

``Obviously that comes with the territory. There's been a lot of pressure, a lot of excitement, a lot of attention,'' center Brook Lopez said, ``but we're very confident in ourselves.''

All-Star point guard Deron Williams said the hype surrounding the Nets means they will ``get a lot of teams' best shots.''

``It's just part of being an up-and-coming team. People are talking about us, we've got that buzz. You know you have to be able to back it up.''

The Nets have the talent to do it.

They re-signed Williams, whose departure to his hometown Dallas Mavericks would have been the only thing that could have dampened the enthusiasm about the team, along with starters Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. All-Star guard Joe Johnson was acquired from Atlanta, giving Brooklyn one of the league's best backcourts.

They get nine games on ESPN and three on TNT after neither network showed them last season. They host the Knicks in their Nov. 1 opener, a nationally televised chance to keep the momentum rolling right into the season.

Once people are done talking about Brooklyn and Barclays, the Nets think they'll provide plenty of discussion with their play.

``We understand what's at stake, and first and foremost we want to protect this house. Our first three games are here at home for the regular season, so we definitely want to come out and get off to a hot start,'' Joe Johnson said.

``Obviously we want to win a championship and we don't feel that we're far-fetched from that, so everybody's focused. We know what we've got to do to get there. We've got a great, veteran group here, guys who have been through a little bit of war and knows what it takes.''

The Nets didn't even contend for playoff spots in their final, depressing years in New Jersey. Avery Johnson arrived in June 2010 after the Nets' 12-70 debacle with the highest winning percentage of any coach in NBA history, then has gone 24-58 and 22-44 in his first two seasons here.

But he and the team are rejuvenated by their new building - more importantly by the idea of fans in it rooting for them and not the opponent.

``We feel good about where we are now,'' he said. ``I remember coming to this site and it was basically the frame was going up and I was standing where this room is right now. They'd say, `OK, this is going to be the media room, Coach. This is going to be where your office is going to be.'

``So now we're here. So the past is the past, we think we have a bright future, and the future is now.''

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Aaron Rodgers and Brooks Koepka, Kirk Cousins and Rickie Fowler and other QB/golfer comparisons

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Aaron Rodgers and Brooks Koepka, Kirk Cousins and Rickie Fowler and other QB/golfer comparisons

You may not immediately think quarterbacks and golfers have a lot in common, but the two types of athletes do share quite a few similarities.

They both look to rack up yardage. They both need to play their best on Sundays. And they both have to be as mentally sharp as they are physically in form.

So, with all that in mind (and, frankly, because Redskins training camp is still more than a month away), why not try to match up QBs with guys on the PGA Tour? 


That's the purpose of this gallery, to pair up passers with golfers because of key traits they share. Who's the Patrick Mahomes on the links? Who's the Dustin Johnson of the NFL?

Those answers, and plenty more, lie in this list. So, go ahead and run through it, then head over to @PeteHaileyNBCS on Twitter to praise (or rip... yeah, most likely rip) the choices. No one will throw a flag or assess you a two-stroke penalty if you have some disagreements.  


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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

WASHINGTON - When Gerardo Parra stepped into the batter’s box for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, everyone in the ballpark knew something was different with the 32-year-old outfielder.

His walk-up song, “Baby Shark”, drew the immediate attention of everyone in attendance. And it would not be the last thing that Washington Nationals fans remembered from Parra on the day.

“I wanted to put on something different,” Parra said postgame. “My [two-year-old daughter Aaliyah Victoria] loves that song. Before the game, I tried merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, then I said, ‘You know what, I want to put in Baby Shark.’ I'm happy for that.”

After his performance against the Phillies in a 6-2 victory, “Baby Shark” should probably stick around as his walk-up song.

Parra was 0-for-23 when he came to the plate in the fourth inning. Before then his last hit came on June 1 against Cincinnati. Quickly Parra broke that hitless streak and doubled to plate the go-ahead run for the Nationals. He took a first-pitch slider from Zach Eflin and drove home Matt Adams, giving the Nats a 2-1 advantage.

Later in the game, he followed that up with a home run in the eighth inning as the Nats hit back-to-back jacks. It gave Parra, who started in the outfield for Victor Robles, his first multi-hit game since his June 1 appearance and his fourth such game on the Nationals roster.

But paired with his walk-up song, Parra’s sixth-inning assist to get out Bryce Harper is going to make him a fan favorite.  As Harper tried to go from first-to-third on a Scott Kingery single to shallow center, Parra scooped up the ball bare-handed to throw Harper out at third base. Without it there would have been no outs with runners on the corners and Patrick Corbin nearing the end of his start. Instead, the Nats cruised through the rest of the inning to preserve the lead. The Phillies appealed the play but to no avail.

“That's the only chance I had to get Harper,” Parra said. “I know he's an aggressive player and I tried to get everything perfect. Bare-handed, throw the ball as fast as I can. I think that changed the game.”

“It’s 'Mini-me,'” manager Davey Martinez, who played 16 years in the major leagues primarily as an outfielder, said about Parra after the game. “That’s what I tell him too. He came down [to the dugout after the play] and said, ‘You didn’t do that, you never did that.’ I go, ‘Too bad I ain’t got video of it…’ It was a tough play, barehanded, coming up firing. He’s really good, he’s a good outfielder.”  

With “Baby Shark” as his walk-up song Parra went 2-for-4 with a home run and a game-changing assist in a one-run ballgame. It looks like Parra has found his new walk-up song.