By Nina Mandell
MIDTOWN WEST — The Nets have a message for the New York Knicks, and it's looming over Madison Square Garden.
A 225-by-95 foot mural, depicting Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and rapper Jay-Z staring down on the "World's Greatest Arena," says the New Jersey team has the "Blueprint for Greatness" as LeBron James and other top NBA players become free agents at midnight.
Workers were putting the finishing touches on the mural, which takes up nearly the whole side of a building, Wednesday afternoon. Knicks fans walking by stared up in disbelief.
"That's his plan all along. The new Russian owner said he was going to take Knicks fans in their own territory," said Carlos Cervantes, 27, of Queens. "They can try all they want, they're New Jersey. It's the Nets."
The Nets are competing with the Knicks, along with four other teams for the services of James. All six teams will make their presentations to the King James on Thursday.
Cervantes said he's hoping the Knicks will have signed Hawks' player Joe Johnson, whom they are reportedly working on a deal with, and be able to lure LeBron to the Big Apple.
"Then the Knicks can tell LeBron we got Joe Johnson, don't worry about the Nets," Cervantes added. "You can go visit Brooklyn anytime you want."
The Nets are moving from Newark to a new arena in Brooklyn in two years.
The "Blueprint" refers to one of Jay-Z's most famous albums, widely considered to be among his best work. The hip-hop mogul is part owner of the team.
Nets CEO Brett Yormark told NorthJersey.com that the mural was intended to make a statement on the eve of free agency season.
"It's a pretty aggressive campaign around free agency," he said. "It's one of the biggest advertising spaces in the city. What better place to make a statement."