New Jersey Nets nearing move to Newark, will play in Prudential Center until move to Brooklyn
BY JULIAN GARCIA AND MITCH LAWRENCE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITERS
Tuesday, February 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM
The Nets will have the cash and the assets to rebuild their team. Now all they need is a new place to play, and it appears they are close to getting it.
While they are still on schedule to move to Brooklyn at some point in 2012, the Nets likely will be playing in Newark the next two seasons after reaching a preliminary lease agreement with the Devils to play their home games at the Prudential Center, according to a source familiar with the team's situation.
According to the source, the Nets and Devils reached a new agreement last week and are expected to sign it this week. It should reach Gov. Chris Christie's desk soon after and it is expected to be approved.
"It's going to happen," said a source familiar with the negotiations.
The Nets and Devils, former co-tenants in the Meadowlands until the Devils moved to Newark in 2007-08, had already reached a lease agreement that was approved but not signed by former governor Jon Corzine. But when Corzine was unseated by Christie in November, that deal fell through, leaving the teams to start from scratch.
Under terms of that previously agreed-upon deal, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority would have waived a reported $7.5 million penalty that the Nets would have had to pay in order to break their lease at the Meadowlands. That penalty, which could be substantially lowered, according to one source, has apparently been a sticking point in the most recent negotiations.
A call to Christie's office was not returned Monday.
The Nets have been playing at the Meadowlands since it opened in 1981, but recently finalized plans to move to Brooklyn. Playing at the ultra-modern Rock may help the Nets sign free agents over the summer, when they will have upwards of $26 million to spend on contracts.
"Ultimately, we're going to be moving to Brooklyn, so that would just be a temporary thing to play in Newark," Nets guard Keyon Dooling said after practice yesterday. "But the building in Newark is very nice and it's more NBA-suitable (than the Meadowlands). This is more about the building itself. The facility is nicer in Newark."
The Nets are averaging 13,302 fans through 22 home games, and that number appears to be inflated. A pair of preseason games in Newark in October drew an average of 14,255.
"I think the arena in Newark will be good for us," said center Brook Lopez. "I can't say if it will mean we'll get better crowds. But it's a good-looking arena and it worked very well for an NBA game when we were down there in preseason. The atmosphere was very good."
Going into tonight's home game against the Pistons, the Nets (4-42) are not only on pace to break the all-time league record for fewest wins - nine, held by the 1972-73 Sixers - but they're also closing in on the franchise record for fewest home wins. The Nets were 10-31 at Nassau Coliseum in 1976-77 and 13-28 at the Meadowlands during the 1989-90 season. They are 3-19 at home this season.