BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Not many people know Brooklyn better than the guy that used to be known as Mel Mel The Abuser on the streets of this New York borough.
Turns out, not even the Big Apple bus driver in charge of taking the Utah Jazz to their hotel knows the Nets' new home as well as Jamaal Tinsley.
The Jazz's drive from the airport to Brooklyn on Monday was uneventful. Getting to the hotel was another story.
"We took a tour of the arena twice," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, laughing.
Translation: The bus driver got lost.
Fortunately, the Jazz happened to have a living Brooklyn-savvy GPS system on the bus with them: Tinsley.
"He was kind of lost," the Jazz backup point guard said, smiling. "He made about two left turns the wrong way and two right turns …"
Those right turns weren't so right, after all.
"We could've been to the hotel a half-hour (earlier)," Tinsley recalled. "I thought we were staying at another hotel. I thought they knew something I didn't know."
Tinsley had extra motivation to get to the hotel quickly: Jamaal Jr., his 8-year-old son, and other family members.
"They were at the hotel waiting," he said, "and I knew he wasn't going the right direction, so I was just trying to help him out."
Part of Tinsley was in disbelief that he was actually in his hometown for an NBA game and that the bus driver wasn't really confused while trying to get them to Newark.
"It's amazing to come back home and play in Brooklyn, just knowing that they have an NBA team," Tinsley said. "I would never expect that in my NBA career."
Tinsley made a name for himself — in multiple ways — while growing up playing hoops in Brooklyn with his dazzling passing and dribbling skills. He laughs when asked about his childhood nickname, "Mel Mel The Abuser."
"Playing in New York, they always give you nicknames," he said. "That's the nickname they came up for me and it's always carried with me."
Tinsley got tickets for about 44 friends and family members, who watched him dish out three assists and block a shot in Utah's 92-90 victory. His 8-year-old son even got to ride with him to work — from the hotel to the arena (no directions required) — before Tuesday's game.
"It's always special (playing in) the place where you grew up," Tinsley said. "Like I was telling my son — he was riding the team bus, 'You've got to take all this in now. Hopefully, you get a chance to do the same thing.' I'm just trying to show him the ropes and (teaching) that Brooklyn came far."
Kinda like the team's extended bus ride.
Tinsley chuckled when it was suggested he should get part of the bus driver's wages.
"I was thinking about that," he said, smiling.
ANOTHER HOMECOMING: Tinsley got his trip home for Tuesday's game. Tonight, it's Gordon Hayward's turn to play in front of some friendly faces when the Jazz take on Indiana in the building the Butler product used to watch his team, the Pacers.
"It's going to be fun. I can't believe it's the third time already," said Hayward, who led Indianapolis-based Butler to the 2010 NCAA championship game. "Everyone had it marked on their calendars and were telling me about it this past summer. I'm pretty excited to go back."
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Corbin laughed when asked if the Jazz requested holiday homecomings for their players.
"Just the way the schedules work out," he said. "It's good for the guys, but we've got to make sure we understand the business at hand and that's to win games on the road."
So far, so good — for the team, at least.
Utah flew into Indianapolis after its game at Brooklyn, and the Jazz have a morning breakfast meeting to prep for the Pacers. Throw in Hayward's afternoon nap, and that doesn't leave a lot of time to visit before the team flies out to Miami after tonight's game.
That's why Hayward won't be visiting with any of his loved ones until after the Jazz and Pacers play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"The bad part about this is we're only in Indiana for less than 24 hours," he said. "I can't really do much."
VERY IMPRESSED: Corbin and Paul Millsap both marveled at the massive, state-of-the-art Barclays Center, and especially the new arena's video screens (7,895 square feet in all) that make the old ones at EnergySolutions Arena look like fuzzy 30-inch TV sets.
"It's a pretty building, a new city, a new location for the team," Corbin said. "Although they've (Nets) been around a while, it's a new place for us here. It's exciting."
And that was before the Jazz's comeback win.
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