Nets 35 years in New Jersey comes to end tonight

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There is a history lost tonight.

It is Dr. J flying through the air. It is the ABA. It is Jason Kidd leading a team to consecutive NBA finals. It is a string of hard luck breaks.

For 35 years they have been the New Jersey Nets. Tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark will be the last Nets game ever in the Garden State. Next year they are the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s been a hard history from the start — the Nets franchise won two ABA titles as the New York Nets and playing in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum out on Long Island. They won those because they had Julius Erving — Dr. J. — leading the way. But the merger with the NBA meant coming up with a $4.8 million payment and the only way the Nets could do that was to sell Dr. J to the Philadelphia 76ers. He never played for the Nets in Jersey. Erving won titles in Philly, and the Nets were left to wonder “what if?”

So it seems to have always gone for the Nets.

When they came to the NBA the franchise moved to New Jersey, playing at Rutgers the first eight years. They were not very good. Eventually the team moved out of the college campus and to the Meadowlands, but their luck never really improved.

The drafted Derrick Coleman, who never lived up to the hype. They drafted Drazen Petrovic, who fast became one of the best shooters in the game then was killed in a tragic car accident.

Lawrence Frank, a New Jersey native, told the Associated Press the move to Brooklyn makes him sad.

“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.”

The Nets have been on the track to Brooklyn since real estate developer Bruce Ratner bought the team in 2004. He planed to use a new arena as a lynchpin for the development and he needed a key tenant for an arena. Both he and new owner Mikhail Prokhorov stand to make a lot of money on the real estate end of the Nets move. The Nets slid out of the Medowlands two seasons ago and have bided their time in Newark, waiting for Brooklyn to be ready.

The Nets will face the 76ers in their final New Jersey game tonight. That seems fitting.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.