Paul Pierce and the Nets were able to get away from their struggles at Fort Hamilton. Credit: Getty Images
The Nets spent part of Monday preparing for a three-game West Coast swing that begins Wednesday in Sacramento. The difference is it wasn’t done at their usual practice space in East Rutherford, N.J.
The team spent Monday fine-tuning things at the recreation center of the Fort Hamilton Army base in Bay Ridge. During their time at New York City’s last active military post, the Nets worked on various details, posed for pictures and served a meal to military personnel, who were able to shoot around on the court while the Nets conducted their media availability.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “I think when you talk about role models, those guys are role models. They protect our country and save our lives.”
So while the Nets talked about improving small details to help them execute better in games, they placed those comments in perspective.
“It’s only fitting that we could come here to the base and have a meal with the soldiers and thank them,” Paul Pierce said. “We really admire and look up to a lot of things they do for this country. A lot of them are sports fans, so it’s great for us to be part of this.”
According to Fort Hamilton spokesman Bruce Hill, an estimated 100 military personnel watched the practice.
“We play basketball for a living and the things that these soldiers do is part of everyday life,” Pierce said. “We don’t realize it because being in the game of basketball, it’s really not a real normal life. We understand that these are soldiers who fight for their country and really serve to protect and really sacrifice so much.
“They sacrifice their family. They sacrifice so many other things just for the protection of our country.”
Pierce, who said he has a few family members in the military, really seemed to savior the experience after visiting various army bases throughout his career but never doing so on Veterans Day.
“It’s good to share this day with the soldiers,” Pierce said. “I’ve been on many army bases but never on Veterans Day. I never had a chance to really just be a part of what they do, how they celebrate and what they’ve been through. It’s a special thing to be able to do that.”
When the practice ended, the Nets posed for pictures with military personnel and were presented with an American flag that flew over the World Trade Center site on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. It is believed that roughly 15 remain and most had been presented to family members of the victims.
The idea of getting the Nets to practice on an army base came to life about three months ago through a phone conversation Air Force Technical Sgt. Derek Bishop had with a member of the team’s community relations department. Bishop is a 15-year veteran stationed in Orlando, Fla. but has coordinated the color guard for the national anthem at the Barclays Center through his Blackberry.
“You always hear about players doing a meet-and-greet at a high school,” Bishop said. “You hear it all the time but for the whole basketball team to come to Fort Hamilton to celebrate Veterans Day with veterans, it’s an absolutely incredible feeling.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before, and I’ve been in the Air Force 15 years. It’s an honor to have them here and I think it’s great that they take the time to come out and spend time with service members.”