By David Cruz
It was the end of an era in New Jersey, as the Nets ended their 35-year run in the Garden State. The team’s departure leaves a 41-night hole in the schedule at the Prudential Arena in Newark.
At the Brick City Bar and Grill on Edison Place, just across the street from the Rock, where the Nets played their final Jersey game, Manager Blaze Andrelczyk says in their short two-season stay in Newark, the Nets have helped the restaurant build a strong customer base.
“The Nets fans have been great,” he said. “We’re very disappointed that they’re leaving, just because it’s been such a great experience. It’s been short. It’s been only two years they were here but ever since they’ve been here, it’s just been an amazing experience. We got to meet a lot of new people and the business has been unbelievable.”
Fans have known that the Nets were leaving for Brooklyn since the season began. The result was a season-long goodbye, leaving some die-hard fans nostalgic.
“Back in the 80s when Michael Ray Richardson, when they beat the Sixers, when they were the returning champions, the place was packed,” recalled Matt Stone. “I remember being at the games with my cousin and my uncle and you couldn’t hear. The next day, your head was pounding.”
Michael Ray Richardson was among the former Nets stars who were introduced as part of a half-time ceremony. He remembered that season and the stunning upset of the Philadelphia 76ers, led then by former Net Julius Erving.
“Julius Erving said after game four in the Meadowlands, that you can mail in the stat sheet because it is over in Philadelphia. But he didn’t understand that he was going home, not the Nets,” laughed Richardson.
In those days the Nets had a strong following at the Meadowlands. Today, the Nets are arguably one of the worst teams in the league at 22-43, with most of the regulars not even in the lineup for the Jersey swan song. Even Gov. Chris Christie seemed happy to see them go.
“I’m not going to the Nets game tonight and my message to the Nets is goodbye,” he said a few hours before game time. “You don’t want to stay, we don’t want you.”
While most of the fans we talked to say they are not likely to follow the team to Brooklyn, the Nets will be happy to hear that at least some fanatics will make the trip across the two rivers.
“I’ll still make the trek to Brooklyn, but I wish they were still here,” said Aaron Phillips, of Voorhees. “They’re still going to be my team. Yeah, that’s my team.”
The Nets have one more game, on the road, but, on this night, they had a full house, and scores of their former greats, cheering them on, hoping for just one more win. Alas, it was not to be. Final score: 76ers, 105 – Nets, 87.