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NBA TV’s 'The Association' Gets Real With Nets, But Don't Expect 'Hard Knocks' Reality

By Barry Janoff

October 11, 2012: The Nets franchise has been around since its ABA days in 1967 and has been in the NBA since the merger in 1976. But it is Year One for the Brooklyn Nets, and the franchise, its ownership and the NBA are heralding the upcoming season with fanfare often reserved for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Beginning Oct. 16, the Nets will star in the season-long show, The Association: Brooklyn Nets, which will include multiple segments on NBA TV and original Webisodes on NBA.com throughout 2012-13.

The NBA said that the Nets have granted an all-access pass to The Association crew. However, being a production of NBA Digital — which is jointly operated by Turner Sports and the NBA — NBA Entertainment and, ultimately, NBA commissioner David Stern, viewers should not expect a hoops version of HBO's Hard Knocks, which comes complete with unfiltered expletive-deleted profanities and often testy behind-the-scenes looks at teams that can be far from flattering.

"We all want to come out looking good. There are no concerns that we will look bad," said Billy King, general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, during a conference call to hype the show. "We are not here to break news. We are here to go behind the scenes."

There will, however, be some tension and unexpected moments running though the story lines. The first segment includes the Nets failure to sign Dwight Howard (who ultimately was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers). Howard comes to Brooklyn with the Lakers on Feb. 5, 2013, and fan reaction should make for some interesting footage for the show.

The Association will also put a spotlight on the reborn rivalry with the New York Knicks, who play across the East River in Madison Square Garden and long have owned hoops in New York. The Nets officially open their first season in Brooklyn on Nov. 1 against the Knicks, which should make for some dramatic moments.

"You don't have to look for that," said Dion Cocoros, svp-original entertainment for NBA Entertainment, regarding the heightened intensity of the intra-city rivalry. "These storylines will write themselves."

Part of the rivalry comes readymade for the NBA's version of reality TV: Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony was born in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, and vocal Knicks supporters include Brooklyn-natives Woody Allen and Spike Lee, who has based some of his films in Brooklyn but already has proclaimed that he will not be switching allegiance from the Knicks to the Nets.

In addition to the players themselves, among those who are expected to get some air time are Russian-born team owner and billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorhov and Jay-Z, who is a minority investor in the team but who has played a major role in the Brooklyn move and acclimation into the community.

"This is not scripted, but if Jay is around I expect he will be part of it," said Cocoros of the fourth season of The Association, which previously featured the Lakers (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11) and Denver Nuggets (2011-12). "I expect at some point we will cross paths."

The Nets are coming off a series of losing seasons, having compiled a record of 58-172 since 2009-10, and have not made the playoffs since 2006-07. But the journey to Brooklyn and to a brand new arena has made the franchise a hot team among marketers — Barclays Center has 11 founding partners and a bevy of supporting sponsors in addition to naming rights holder Barclays — as well as a cover story in Sports Illustrated.

Marketing support includes print, radio, Internet, social media and spots to run on NBA TV and NBA.com. The preview spot takes viewers on a tour of Brooklyn and includes locals expressing their excitement about having a pro sports team back in the borough.

"I don't say I'm from New York," offers one guy wearing a Nets cap. "I say I'm from Brooklyn." (See the whole spot here.)

And the situation with Howard notwithstanding, Brooklyn is for now a destination among top-tier players. For 2012-13, the Nets made their Core Four — Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace — the crux of a marketing campaign, "Hello Brooklyn." That group also helped the Nets to sign off on The Association project.

"We mostly have a veteran team, which took away concerns I have," said King. "If this was a young team I probably would not have wanted to do [the filming]."

"We all want to come out looking good. There are no concerns that we will look bad. We are not here to break news. We are here to go behind the scenes."

The Association: Brooklyn Nets, in addition to chronicling the Nets present and future, pays homage to Brooklyn's past. During the first segment, Ralph Branca and Joe Pignatano, who were members of the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, will be interviewed, as will other Brooklynites such as actress Rosie Perez.

"We're thrilled to be covering the Nets in their historic season and to have the borough of Brooklyn, provide a great backdrop for the series," said Christina Miller, svp/GM for NBA Digital. "This show becomes more important every year. A little deeper. The Association is part of NBA TV's commitment to deliver original programming, and to provide fans with authentic access to all aspects of the game."

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