- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) With their first Eastern Conference finals just a win away, some of the New Jersey Nets talked about the not-so-good old days.
For coach Byron Scott, it brought back memories of a roster of 10-day wonders just a year ago.
Kerry Kittles recalled four knee operations and some lousy teams.
Keith Van Horn gave glimpses of waking up early on those postseason May mornings to take the children to school.
"Every day I sit there and say how far we have come in one year with basically a new team," veteran guard Lucious Harris said yesterday after the Nets held a short practice to prepare for a potential series-clinching Game 5 against the Charlotte Hornets tonight.
When asked if he pinches himself just to make sure it's not a dream, Harris gave one of those "Are you kidding?" looks.
"I'm going to let it run as far as it can go," he said with a laugh.
In what has been one of the remarkable turnarounds in NBA history, the Nets are so close to the conference finals just a year after posting a 26-56 record.
A New Jersey win would also be the Hornets' final game as a team based in Charlotte, N.C. The NBA has approved the transfer of the franchise to New Orleans for next season.
"I know we are the underdogs," guard David Wesley said after a short practice. "But I think we like that role, and we have our doubters, but that's what makes it fun."
Most of the Hornets didn't talk to the media after the workout, which was in sharp contrast to the Nets workout where everyone was chatty with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
While Jason Kidd was peppered with questions about the possibility of playing his first conference finals in eight seasons, long-time sufferers like Kittles, Harris and Van Horn had a greater appreciation of how far the Nets have come.
"I always figured it would eventually turn around. Eventually, we would get better," said Kittles, the 1996 draft pick who had more knee surgeries (four) than playoff games (three) since joining the organization. "I remember saying one day to someone that it can't get any worse than this, and it did get worse.
"I learned never to say that again," Kittles said.
Even Scott shakes his head about his rookie season last year, the pre-Kidd era.
"With about eight games left in the season last year, I looked down the bench and we had five guys on 10-day contracts. I knew it couldn't get any worse than that," Scott said. "That's the only time I ever said anything like that or felt anything like that."
Kidd, whose arrival in an offseason trade with Phoenix sparked the Nets' transformation, downplayed the talk of going to the conference finals.
"This is do-or-die for them and that's the approach we have to take," Kidd said of the Hornets. "You can't take the approach that we have another game if we lose. The momentum in this series can change."
Kidd noted that the Hornets' P.J. Brown was a member of the Miami Heat when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the New York Knicks in the playoffs in 1997.
"We can come back, man," Brown said. "Yeah, we have to win three in a row, but we just have to pick our chins up off the floor and remember there are a lot of things we've done wrong. Once again, it came down to rebounds. They beat us badly on the boards. They beat us in the hustle department. All that has to change in Game 5."
If it doesn't, the Nets will be heading to the conference finals for the first time since joining the NBA in 1976 after the merger with the ABA.
"It will be just another goal attained in a long time of goals attained this season," Van Horn said. "I want to see it going into the next series."


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