Nets End 29-Year Run at Meadowlands

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For most
of the second half of the New Jersey Nets' final game at the
Meadowlands, the team's current and most recent owners sat next to each
other and shared some thoughts and laughs.

With the Nets' 29-year run at the Izod
Center coming to an end with a 105-95 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats,
Bruce Ratner and Lewis Katz looked at the photographers on the baseline
and posed for a couple of pictures.

"We've been in this sport 12 years
with this team," Ratner said after Monday night's game. "We stayed
friends and enjoyed the game and discussed who's better and who's worse.
He's better in basketball, I'll tell you that."

As owners, neither got to enjoy the
thrill of seeing the Nets win an NBA championship, although Katz had two
of his teams reach the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, losing to the Los
Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.

The Nets will move to Newark for the
next two seasons to play in the Prudential Center. They plan to move to
Brooklyn, N.Y., for the 2012 season, provided the proposed Barclays
Center is open.

By that time, Ratner will not be the
majority owner.

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov
agreed in December to buy 80 percent of the franchise and 45 percent of
the planned arena from Ratner's Forest City Ratner Cos.

His ownership application has been
vetted by the league but its board of governors won't vote on it until
the state of New York takes full possession of land at the arena site
that was acquired under eminent domain.

Ratner said it was somewhat sad to see
the final game at the Izod Center.

"In my six years of ownership, we
went to the playoffs three years and three years we didn't," he said. "I
wish we could have had a better season. I am kind of nostalgic. I still
love the team. What was good was the last third of the season. We
played very hard. I think the team was better than its record and I am
so glad to be associated with it."

After trading Vince Carter to Orlando
in the offseason to create some salary cap space for the upcoming
offseason, Ratner knew the Nets would struggle this season. However, he
did not expect the team to have 12 wins heading into the season finale
at Miami on Wednesday.

"We wanted to improve and I think
we've put ourselves in a great spot," Ratner said.

The Nets will be at least $23 million
under the salary cap heading into an offseason in which LeBron James,
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire and Rudy Gay might be
available.

The Nets, who have a group of good
young core players in Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Terrence Williams,
Courtney Lee
and Yi Jianlian, also will pick no worse than fourth in the
draft — they have a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick
overall.

For Katz, the end was somewhat
ironic. He and fellow owner Ray Chambers wanted to build an arena in
Newark and move the team there. They even signed a joint venture with
the New York Yankees to accomplish that and purchased the New Jersey
Devils of the NHL.

The move never panned out and
YankeeNets eventually sold the Devils to minority owner Jeff Vanderbeek,
who succeeded in building an arena in Newark and moving the team there.

"It's bittersweet," Katz said of the
final game at Izod. "It was a wonderful, wonderful time for all of us
who spent a lot of our lives down here. On the other hand, maybe Newark
will spur somebody else who will want to put a team there.

"It was our dream," he added. "We
just couldn't get a governor to support us to build the arena. But you
got a hockey arena. It should have a basketball team. Maybe if they do
real well that could be the beginning of someone else seeing how it
could work. The end result, this team [the Nets] will come back when it
gets to New York."

Some workers at the Izod Center felt
there was a chance the facility might play host to the Knicks and
Rangers for a year if Madison Square Garden underwent renovations in the
near future.

"There is nothing to that," said Dennis
Robinson
, the chief executive of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition
Authority, in a telephone interview on Tuesday. He said the arena
might be the site of some college basketball games.

"I think what we have been known for
and what we do best is being a family and concert show facility,"
Robinson said. "We have been one of the best in that business and we
will look to grow that in the future."

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