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

By Tom Canavan

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 22 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

New Jersey Nets' Kris Humphries, right, loses the ball in front of Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan Ilyasova during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, April 21, 2012, in Milwaukee.

Morry Gash, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEWARK, N.J. — 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.

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