With the one and only Julius “Dr. J” Erving in the house, pro basketball returned to the Nassau Coliseum (NYCB LIVE) for the first time in 40 years on Nov. 4 when the Long Island Nets hosted the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in NBA G-League action.
The Nets opened the 2017-18 campaign with an impressive 115-99 victory, as six players scored in double figures in front of a crowd of 3,205. Isaiah Whitehead led the way with 26 points, while Kamari Murphy poured in 21 and Milton Doyle added 20.
“The opening-night vibe was great,” Vice President of Business Operations Alton Byrd said. “Our players and fans all had a good time. One of the best things I heard was from a 7-year old. He turned to his parents and said, ‘When is the next home game, I want to come back.’”
Erving and the Village of Hempstead Mayor Don Ryan were honored during the much-anticipated opening night. Erving’s No. 32 jersey was retired and raised to the rafters, and Ryan was named the L.I. Nets’ first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award winner, with Erving serving as the presenter.
“The opportunity to honor two of Long Island basketball’s biggest legends is very important to the lineage of the Long Island Nets,” Byrd said. “Both Julius and Don represent all that is good about basketball on the Island. Both men are etched in history of the Coliseum, the Nets organization, and within the basketball community as men of high integrity who have provided many young men and women with guidance, mentorship, and key life experiences on which to build a foundation.”
There’s plenty of nostalgia with the L.I. Nets playing at the Hempstead Turnpike address. The New York Nets called the arena home from 1972-77 and won a pair of American Basketball Association titles with Erving, including the final ABA championship game in ‘76. Erving was MVP for all three ABA seasons he spent with the Nets. In 1977, the franchise joined the NBA as part of the merger and spent one last season at the Coliseum before relocating to New Jersey.
The L.I. Nets debuted last season and Barclays Center in Brooklyn served as their temporary home. The majority of home games were played on weekday afternoons and only a handful were open to audiences. That’s all changed in a big way, with mostly primetime games at the Coliseum including lots of weekend dates and exciting promotions.
The home schedule features 24 games, including a season-long four-game stand from Dec. 23-Jan. 2. The defending league champion Raptors 905 visit on Dec. 3, Jewish Heritage Night is set for Dec. 14, and the Westchester Knicks are in town on Dec. 29. The Nets will play 24 on the road as well as two games as part of the league’s showcase event in Canada in January.
Two-way contract players Jacob Wiley and Yakuba Ouatarra are among the leaders for coach Ronald Nored, who is looking to get the roster to jell sooner as opposed to later.
“We have Long Island written across our chests and it’s exciting to have a home of our own,” Nored said. “We have high-character guys and a great staff that’s trying to emulate all the things going on in Brooklyn.”
Wiley, a 6-foot-8 forward who wasn’t with Long Island for the opener, played in 54 NCAA Division I games and averaged 20.4 points per game for Eastern Washington last season. Ouattara, a native of France, is a 6-5 guard who played 29 games in the French LNB Pro A League averaging 11.7 points.
Murphy (6-9, forward) is a Brooklyn native who spent two collegiate seasons at both Oklahoma State and Miami (Fla.), while Doyle (6-4, guard) starred at Loyola-Chicago for four seasons with a 13.3 points per game average. Another key piece is 6-8 center Akil Mitchel, who appeared in four games for Long Island last season and scored 13 points in the win over Fort Wayne.
“We’re starting to build a fan base and we’re going to play hard and hopefully give them lots to cheer about and reasons to keep coming back,” Nored said.
Individual tickets, season ticket memberships, flex plans, and group tickets to games are now on sale and can be purchased by calling 844.LINETS.1 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.