For the past 35 years, the New Jersey Nets have been the laughing stock of the NBA. It may sound too harsh, but it’s cold hard fact. The Nets are the Clippers of the East (we’re talking about the pre-Blake Griffin era). The history of the Nets franchise is about as ridiculous as the last two seasons of “Jersey Shore.” Absolutely nothing funny about it.
The team’s official scorer Herb Turetzky summed it up best in a well-written piece by The Associated Press writer Tom Canavan.
“If there is one word that describes this team’s time in New Jersey, it’s misfortune,” Turetzky told AP. He 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.”
Turetzky is absolutely correct. Outside of a huge first-round upset in 1984 against the Philadelphia 76ers and trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, the “misfortunes” of the Nets read like a graphic novel.
The lack of fan support led to severe financial woes, and oftentimes visiting teams would outnumber Nets fans in the arena. Michael Ray Richardson, one of the best talents in the league, couldn’t defeat his drug problems and his off-the-court demons ended up costing his NBA career. The promising career of Drazen Petrovic was cut short by a fatal automobile accident in 1993. One Nets employee calls Petrovic’s untimely death as “the tragedy of all tragedies.” And one fatal gunshot that resulted in prison term for former player Jayson Williams still haunts the team, so much so that Williams wasn’t invited to the Nets’ final home.
Based on those gut-wrenching tales, it’s hard to blame the Nets for trying to leave behind their haunting past. It’s like the Lutz family leaving the Amityville house. There may not be reported paranormal activities at Izod Center (formerly Brendan Byrne Arena and Continental Airlines Arena) but horrific events seem to follow the Nets like a bad dream.
After Monday night, the Nets’ time in New Jersey will come to a merciful end as the team plays host to the 76ers. It will be the final time New Jersey can call the Nets their home team. When the 2012 NBA season commences, the Nets will move to Brooklyn and play their home games at the state-of-the-art Barclays Center.
The move gives the Nets a fresh start. And, given their sad history, if any team deserves a break it’s the Nets. They badly need to shed their ugly New Jersey past and hope for a better future in Brooklyn.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.