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They Will Know Jack, and Shaq


This is how it should be.

The Nets get the Lakers now. They get Nicholson in the front row and Shaq in the middle, Phil Jackson crossing his legs on the bench and Kobe Bryant scraping the sky.

They get the ghosts of Wilt and Kareem, Elgin and West and Magic. They get all of it from the moment they step off the plane.

You couldn't ask for a more perfect final chapter.

If the Nets are going to the Finals anyway, why shouldn't they have the world's best team waiting for them?

"We definitely have our work cut out for us, no question about that," Keith Van Horn said Sunday night, after living and dying on the couch, watching the Lakers finally outlast the Kings in overtime, 112-106.

"It's strange," he added. "I watched so many Laker games growing up, and now I'm playing the Lakers. And because of the Lakers, I watched so many Celtic games too, and we've already beaten them. Somehow, it's like I'm back in the middle of all those old Lakers-Celtics battles."

Van Horn, who grew up in Diamond Bar, isn't the only one who will feel that way.

Jason Kidd grew up in Northern California, but his game is SoCal all the way, a direct descendant of the Magic Johnson school of point guard play.

Lucious Harris is from Los Angeles, used to taunt the neighborhood kids by rooting for Larry Bird, pulling for the Celtics.

And, of course, there is Byron Scott, the man who pulls the Nets' strings, who grew up in Inglewood, then forged a piece of legend for himself as a key member of the Showtime Lakers who ruled the 1980s. You know, this is how they all wanted this remarkable run to end, playing the Lakers for the championship.

So now the Nets get seven games and two weeks to be Namath and the Jets, to be Jimmy V and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Most of them vowed not to watch the Laker-King game. It wasn't until Van Horn's wife, Amy, flicked on the second half that he reluctantly agreed to watch. In the blink of an eye, his palms were sweaty.

Just before the start of overtime, he admitted, "This is the most nerve-racking experience of my life! How do people do this all the time? How do they watch a game and know there isn't a thing they can do about the outcome?"

He laughed nervously.

"I guess this proves that I'm a player," Van Horn said. "I'm definitely not cut out to be a fan."

Funny thing, though. By the time the game was over, Van Horn's palms were dry.

His stomach was fine. His heartbeat was back to normal. The player was back.

"I've got a great feeling," he said. "I was thinking about one of the games I went to as a kid. We sat behind the Celtics' bench, and at every timeout, they would stand and I would see those names stretched out on the back of their warmups and I'd think, 'Man, what a great thing, being out there in one of those games.'"

He paused.

"I guess I'm about to find out."

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