NBA

Nets' 35-year run in NJ will end Monday vs. Sixers

Share This Story

   
 

NEWARK, N.J. (AP)

(Eds: Updates with comments from former Nets coach and current Pistons coach Lawrence Frank after 7th paragraph and adds comment in last two paragraphs. With AP Photos.)By TOM CANAVANAP Sports Writer

For the past 45 years, Herb Turetzky has had the best seat in the house to watch the Nets play basketball.

It was front row, center court. between the benches, every night.

Turetzky, the team's official scorer, has seen the Nets' glory days of Julius Erving and the ABA in the opening decade mostly on Long Island to the team's sometimes laughable struggles in NBA over the last 35 years in New Jersey, whether it be Piscataway, East Rutherford or the team's current home at the Prudential Center in Newark.

The New Jersey chapter will end for all practical purposes Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. It will be the Nets' final home game before a move next season to Brooklyn and the new Barclays Center.

The official close to the season will be on Thursday night in Toronto, and of course it will cap a fifth straight non-playoff season.

''If there is one word that describes this team's time in New Jersey, it's misfortune,'' said Turetzky, who will work his 1,177 consecutive home game on Monday. ''Every time we seemed to be building something to get up to respectability some crisis came up.''

The problems ranged from money, to drugs, an automobile-related death and injuries that would knock the Nets off track for extended periods that sometimes lasted close to decade.

''It's hard to believe that basketball won't be in New Jersey anymore,'' said former Nets and current Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, who grew up in Teaneck, where the franchise played its first season in 1967-68 as the Americans of the ABA before a move to Long Island the following season. ''Having grown up there and coached there, obviously there's a lot of deep-seated feelings. To me, there was a little bit of separation when the team went to Newark, but the fact they'll no longer be playing in New Jersey - it's going to be sad.''

If there was a glory time for the Nets in New Jersey, it was 10 years ago when Jason Kidd jumped on board and turned a team accustomed to failure into one which made the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. The second team, which won 10 straight postseason games, also featured Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and Kerry Kittles, had a legitimate shot at a title, losing the finals to the Spurs in six games. The final loss came in a game in San Antonio where it blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead with the series on the verge of returning to the Meadowlands for a deciding game.

''I remember before the start of the `01-02 season, Jason got up and told us at a dinner before training camp that `the losing was over,''' said Mitch Kaufman, the long-time Nets' director of video operations said. ''It was a speech that I have never seen a player made at a dinner. We took off out of the gate that year and we were the shocking story of the year.''

After the second loss in the Finals, Kidd got fed up with Byron Scott and the coach was fired halfway through the following season. The Nets made a couple of playoffs runs but Kidd's knee problems never allowed the Nets to get back to championship round. The point guard was eventually traded to Dallas in 2008, and won a title last season.

The Nets have gone downhill since, but that's the story of this franchise.

It has been close to putting things together, but something always happened.

It started the first year in the NBA. Facing a fee to join the league after the NBA-ABA merger and an unexpected $4.8 million indemnity due to the Knicks, then cash-strapped owner Roy Boe was forced to sell Erving's contract to the 76ers. Without Dr. J, the Nets first eight or so years in the league were embarrassing.

The first four years were played at Rutgers, a roughly 9,000 seat arena on a college campus. There were no seat backs on the bench and the locker rooms were very small. It was mostly a college crowd sprinkled with season ticket holders hoping to get the good seats when the team moved to the Meadowlands in 1981.

''I remember Red Auerbach one night had a big problem with the building,'' Kaufman said. ''It was Larry Bird's rookie year. He needed a space to smoke his cigar and there wasn't big enough in the locker room.''

The Nets didn't start to turn around things until around 1984 with a team that included Micheal Ray Richardson, Buck Williams, Darryl Dawkins and Mike Gminski. They stunned the defending champion 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs and seemed on the way up.

Two years later, the team collapsed after Richardson, who was as good anyone in the league when in the right frame of mind, was banned for drug use.

The Nets rebuilt in the early 1990, drafting Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson in the first round and getting Drazen Petrovic in a trade with Portland in 1991. They made the playoffs in '92 and 93, with the second one with Chuck Daly as coach. However, tragedy struck after the `93 season when Petrovic, one of the NBA's best pure shooters, was killed in a car accident in Germany.

''He was as hard a worker as I have ever seen,'' Turetzky said. ''He took two extremely talented players (Coleman and Anderson) who weren't reaching their potential and turned those guys into All Stars. They were embarrassed to not work hard when he was there. They were both All Stars (in 1993) and when he was killed their careers floundered. They never retained that drive.''

''That was the tragedy of all tragedies,'' Kaufman added.

The Nets fortunes did not turn until the team hired Rod Thorn as general manager in 2000. He engineered the post draft trade with Phoenix in 2001 that brought Kidd to New Jersey and almost earned the Nets a title.

That doesn't explain why the team is moving. After Boe, the franchise was owned for a group known as the Secaucus Seven. It sold the team to a group of Newark real estate developers led by Raymond Chambers and Lewis Katz in 1999. It was their intention to move the team from the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands to Newark, and they signed a deal with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to form a company that would own both teams and their broadcast rights.

The only problem was Chambers and Katz could not get the state to pay for a new arena in Newark. They eventually sold the franchise in 2004 to real estate developer Bruce Ratner, whose plan all along was to move the team to Brooklyn. The planned move went into high gear late in 2009 when Ratner worked out a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to become the majority owner and to provide most of the money to build the arena in Brooklyn.

''It's going to be the best thing that happened to me,'' said Bruce Hershfield of New York, who has had season tickets for roughly 20 years. ''New Jersey people will have a problem and I don't think there will be many going. There are seven or nine trains that go to the new arena so it will be a 20-minute train ride.''

Hershfield hopes the move to Brooklyn will finally give the team a fan base that will root for the team all the time, Too many times, there seemed to be as many people rooting for the opposing team.

''When they go to Brooklyn, it's going to be a whole different fan base,'' Frank said. ''You feel bad for those fans who stuck with it both good and bad; you had to suck it up until we had our glory years, which was a short window.''

---

AP freelancer Scott Held in Detroit contributed to this report.

Tagged: Mavericks, Warriors, Nets, 76ers, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


NBA Videos

NBA considering mid-season Vegas tournament? Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Adam Silver confirms the NBA has engaged in early conversations about the possib...

LeBron and Blatt 'will work together beautifully' Posted: Jul 14, 2014
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt on LeBron James' decision to return to Clevelan...

LeBron's back and so are the Cavs Posted: Jul 11, 2014
FOX Sports 1's Gary Payton weighs-in on LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland...

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..