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.