You thought this was the lowest moment in New Jersey'sfranchise history? Then you thought very wrong.
The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets -- also known as the "New Jersey Nyets" around these parts -- opened their season with 18 consecutive losses and finished with only 12 wins, earning them a spot among the worst teams in NBA history
But, believe it or not, neither the 0-18 nor the 12-70 qualify as the worst, most embarrassing moment in New Jersey's franchise history. So come with me on a journey through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of suck.
sent me the link to a Deadspin post
about the Nets' impending name change (possibly only to the "Brooklyn Nets"). He found one sentence of that post particularly entertaining:
Yes, the Nets go back to the '60s, and are one of four remaining links to the ABA days. But a long history does not equal a storied history. Remember that time they had to forfeit a playoff game because the only arena they could get had baskets of uneven height? Remember when they sold Dr. J because they couldn't afford the cost of joining the NBA? Remember those 432 games below .500, in just 34 years in the league?
That sounds pretty sad, right? I mean, losing a playoff game by forfeit because your arena sucked? Well, put a protective cover over your shame gland, because it's even more pathetic than it sounds.
First understand that this happened back when the "Nets" were actually the New Jersey Americans
of the ABA. Now...from NBA.com's New Jersey Nets History page
1968: The Playoff Game That Never Happened
New Jersey's 36-42 finish earned the team a tie with the Kentucky Colonels for the fourth and final playoff spot in the ABA's Eastern Division. A single-game playoff was scheduled to determine which team would advance to face the Minnesota Muskies in the first round of postseason play. Unfortunately for the Americans, the Teaneck Armory was booked for a circus on the scheduled date. Owner Arthur Brown scrambled to find an alternate site and managed to reserve Commack Arena in the Long Island, New York, town of the same name.
When the teams showed up for the game, however, they found that the court was in unplayable condition, with floorboards loose, bolts unscrewed, and basket stanchions unpadded. The Colonels refused to play. ABA commissioner George Mikan ruled the game a forfeit, with Kentucky the winner. The Americans' first taste of postseason action had ended without so much as an opening jump ball.
So they had a one-game playoff -- thanks to a sparkling sub-.500 record -- and lost it by forfeit. Ouch. And notice that last sentence? That game was supposed to be New Jersey's first ever playoff contest...and they lost it by forfeit. And it was a home game
. How utterly perfect. It couldn't be
any more Nets-like, even if Brook Lopez travelled back in time to facepalm about it.
But don't you want more details about this ball-crusher? Of course you do.
From Remember the ABA
For the first several months of the 1967-68 season, the Americans struggled to keep up in a series of high-scoring shootouts. On November 2, 1967, in New Orleans, the Buccaneers crushed the Americans 141-117. The 141 points for the Bucs established a new ABA high mark. On November 27, 1968, in Louisville, the Kentucky Colonels humiliated the Americans 138-100. And, on December 19, 1967, the Pipers pounded the Americans in Pittsburgh, 146-124. The 146 points for the Pipers set still another ABA high mark. And, Pittsburgh's 80-56 halftime lead also set a new ABA record for most points scored in a half.
Wow. Basketbawful before there was a Basketbawful! Let's continue...
In March 1968, the Americans went on a "mini" playoff push. ... Ultimately, the Americans tied the Kentucky Colonels for fourth place in the Eastern Division with a 36-42 record. A special one-game playoff was scheduled between the two teams to decide which team would qualify for the regular playoffs. The game was scheduled to be played at New Jersey. However, the Teaneck Armory was booked by a circus the entire week of the playoff game.
The Americans decided to move the game to Commack Arena on Long Island. What followed truly became the stuff of ABA legend.
When players, fans and reporters arrived at Commack Arena the evening of the game, the scene was chaotic. Workers hired by the Americans were feverishly trying to tape new 3-point lines onto the court. Parts of the floor appeared to have gaps and holes. Some areas of the court were unstable. There were numerous player complaints about goal padding, floor marking and even the height of the baskets.
Walt Simon observed: "This floor is a shame. You step on one side and another side comes up. That's dangerous."
No shit, Walt.
Levern Tart recited a litany of obvious problems: "One basket seems a little higher than the other. And the 25-foot arc looks a little crooked. And there isn't any padding on the backboards or basket supports. It looks like things have been put up too quickly."
Colonels coach Gene Rhodes summed up the condition of the court by saying: "It's something out of Rube Goldberg!"
Wait, wait, wait. I thought the point of a Rube Goldberg contest was designing a ridiculously complicated machine to perform a seemingly simple operation. This sounds more like inventing an obstacle course where the winning prize is death.
Others at the game also recall that parts of the court were very slippery. This was apparently the result of condensation from hockey ice directly underneath the court (Commack was the home of the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League).
Despite the bizarre conditions, most of the Americans players were suited up and ready to play by game time. But, only 3 or 4 Colonels bothered to dress. After Kentucky refused to play, a call was placed to ABA Commissioner George Mikan in Minneapolis. After consulting with Americans and Colonels representatives, Mikan finally ordered the game forfeited in favor of the visiting Colonels. "I just don't want anyone injured," explained Mikan.
A slim crowd of about 400 had showed up for the game. Many of these fans had waited a full hour after the scheduled tipoff, hoping that the game would still go on.
When the forfeit was announced over the P.A. system, many fans in the small crowd gave a sarcastic cheer. To add insult to injury, the Americans had given out numerous free tickets to their one-game playoff, without any special markings. When a line formed for refunds, many of the free ticketholders got in line with paying customers. The arena's ticket crew mistakenly gave refunds on about 80 complimentary tickets.
Well, that was $7.28 the New Jersey owner would never see again...
A short time later, Americans owner Brown stormed out of the arena, saying to his own coach, Max Zaslofsky: "Come on, let's get out of this stinking joint."
The next day, Brown bitterly complained about Mikan's decision to forfeit the game. He threatened to sue Mikan and the ABA. In response, Mikan told the Louisville Courier-Journal: "I suppose Brown has the right to go to court. That's his opinion. I made this ruling for the good of the league. I don't want to try it in the papers."
For a short time, the league actually considered flying the Americans AND the Colonels to Minneapolis for a special "replay" of the game. The winner would have simply stayed put in Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Muskies in Game 1 of a regular 5-game playoff series. A scorecard was even printed for Minneapolis fans who (for inexplicable reasons) might have wanted to see the game. Eventually the league decided against a replay -- the Colonels started their playoff series with Minnesota and that was the end of the saga.
So let's sum this up: the Nets (then the Americans) lost their first-ever playoff game by forfeit because their normal arena was booked by a circus and their substitute arena was like a demilitarized zone. The forfeit happened because commissioner George freaking Mikan's unilateral decision to just cancel the game outright. Then fate squeezed a big, fat lemon all over the wound when the Nets/Americans accidentally refunded money on free tickets
. Then they were screwed out of a replay of the game too.
Man. And we thought the Clippers were cursed.
And the kicker? Wait for it...waaaaaait for it...
After the fiasco, Brown was asked by several reporters whether the Americans might move to Commack Arena for their next season. Brown harshly responded: "I cannot see any possibility of negotiating with these people. Anyone in the arena business should know that what's here is inadequate and improper. We definitely won't be here next year!" The manager of Commack Arena, John Steele, shot back: "I wouldn't want Brown here now for all his millions and I told him so."
But in the summer of 1968, Brown decided that the Americans could not survive in New Jersey. He announced his plans to move the team into the New York area -where he had intended to base the team in the first place. It would play as the "New York Nets." And where would the Nets play all of their home games for the 1968-69 season? Commack Arena, of course!
Labels: basketball history, New Jersey Nets