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Nets play last N.J. home game, next stop Brooklyn

Former New Jersey Nets players, from left, Darryl

Former New Jersey Nets players, from left, Darryl Dawkins, Otis Birdsong and Darwin Cook attend the team's 35-year anniversary at halftime of an NBA basketball game between the New Jersey Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers. (April 23, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

NEWARK -- When the Nets left Long Island and crossed the Hudson 35 years ago, they sought identity, stability, prosperity and adventure. Well, they sure had adventure.

They paused Monday night on their way back across the river to Brooklyn, in their final game in New Jersey, to recall just how eventful their stay really was.

They celebrated the two trips to the NBA Finals, led by Jason Kidd, and there was the long-term brilliance of Buck Williams. Fans roared at video messages from those two men, and from Vince Carter, Kenyon Martin and Brian Scalabrine.

Monday night also was an occasion to remember the night Carl Lewis mangled the national anthem and the time when Charles Barkley of the 76ers spat at a heckler and hit a little girl instead. There was the occasion when Chris Morris sat on the bench wearing one sneaker monogrammed "PLEASE" and the other monogrammed "TRADE ME."

And there was the firestorm over Kenny Anderson having missed a practice. The reaction left teammate Derrick Coleman incredulous and exasperated with the media, causing him to utter the phrase that perhaps best serves as the Nets' New Jersey epitaph, "Whoop de damn do."

No hard feelings. Anderson was among the alumni invited back and honored during a halftime ceremony of the game against the 76ers. So was Coleman.

"I said it off the top of my head," Coleman told reporters with a laugh Monday night, referring to his famous quote. Looking across the room at Anderson, he shouted, "It's all your fault!"

It was a night of good feeling. There was a full house at Prudential Center, and, unlike many other games, the fans were rooting and chanting for the Nets. People wore Nets jerseys of many different vintages. The people who showed up were not in agreement with Gov. Chris Christie, who said goodbye and good riddance.

Coleman, Anderson, Morris, Micheal Ray Richardson, Kerry Kittles and other former New Jersey Nets all reflected on how much fun it all was -- despite the fact, as Anderson pointed out, that they had to share a locker room with truckers in the team's practice facility.

"I met my wife here," Coleman said, mentioning the morass that preceded his arrival as the No. 1 overall pick. "I just thought the team we had going, we just changed the whole Nets franchise."

Anderson said the Nets of his era were ready to compete with the elite. "I thought we had something," he said Monday night. But the car crash that cost the life of his fellow guard Drazen Petrovic left holes in the club's heart and psyche that never were repaired.

Something always happened to the Nets in New Jersey -- a tragedy, a bad injury, a bad decision. It all just didn't work out.

"If you were a part of this franchise, you hope for the best," said Richardson, whose ban for substance abuse was one of the severe bad turns.

It sure will help if they can re-sign Deron Williams and bring in more talent. The 1976-77 Nets, based at the Coliseum, won 22 games in an 82-game season. After Monday night, the Nets have 22 wins in this abbreviated season.

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