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Nets reach deal to play at Newark arena until new home built

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The Canadian Press
2/18/2010 6:23:43 PM
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets are going to play in Newark, at least for the next two seasons.

The NBA team reached a deal with the state to move their regular-season games to Newark's Prudential Center until their new arena is built in Brooklyn.

Under the deal, the Nets will pay a US$4 million penalty over two years to get out of their lease at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, their home since 1981.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority voted to approve the deal Thursday morning. Details of the arrangement were announced Thursday afternoon by Gov. Chris Christie's office.

"This is a good agreement for the Nets and a good agreement for New Jersey," said Jon Hanson, who chairs a governor's gaming, sports, and entertainment commission and who worked on the deal.

The Nets plan to finish the current season at the Izod Center and move to "The Rock" in downtown Newark for the 2010-11 and the 2011-12 seasons.

The team, which will continue to practice and be headquartered in an East Rutherford office about a mile from the Izod Center, plans to move into a new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

"This temporary move not only gives our fans a state-of-the-art arena with the first-class amenities common in most NBA buildings, but also provides our players with a great atmosphere in which to play," Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said in a statement.

Yormark said the move also allows the team to grow its fan base in Essex and Union counties, as well as with fans in New York City who can use mass transit to attend games.

"We are confident that the NBA family will see this as a positive move, as we do," Yormark said. "We look forward to being part of the community in Newark and will continue our extensive community outreach in the area."

The Nets are struggling this season. They have won only 5 of 54 games and need five victories to avoid the NBA record for fewest wins in a season (9-73) set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.

The Nets likely will have a very high pick in the NBA draft in June. The team has plenty of salary cap space for potential free agents this summer. Among the players eligible to seek free agency are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian tycoon who has agreed in principle to buy the team, has indicated that he will spend money to sign free agents once the league approves the sale.

Officials have long tried to broker a truce between the Izod Center and the Prudential Center; while the Nets played in East Rutherford, the New Jersey Devils called Newark home.

The deal means that the Devils, Nets and Seton Hall will be playing in the Prudential Center.

"The Nets, Devils and Seton Hall all played at Continental when it was called that and it wasn't a problem," said Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, referring to the previous name of the Izod Center. "I am confident if they came here it would work out fine."

The agreement reached Thursday contains a non-disparagement between Izod and Prudential, with the Newark arena focusing on sports and the Izod Center concentrating on concerts and family shows.

As part of the agreement, the $4 million penalty can be offset by various credits, including up to $250,000 each year for the guarantee of proceeds to benefit the Newark Symphony Hall; up to $100,000 each year for the leasing of two Prudential Center suites to the Sports and Exposition Authority, one during Nets games and one during general events; and, up to $100,000 each year in advertising credits.

The Nets played two preseason games in Newark, both drawing far more than usual at the Izod Center. The announced crowd for their 96-92 preseason loss to New York was 15,721.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., contributed to this report.

New Jersey Nets (Photo: NBA)

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