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NBA FINALS | NET NOTES

Scott Wants to Avoid Finals Fade

June 13, 2002|Elliott Teaford

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Indiana Pacers took the Lakers to six games in the NBA Finals in 2000 but are no longer considered an elite team. The Philadelphia 76ers extended the Lakers to five games in the 2001 Finals, but they also faded from contention.

The New Jersey Nets don't want to follow in the footsteps of two other Eastern Conference teams after they were vanquished by the Lakers.

"Obviously, we're going to try to get a little bit better," Coach Byron Scott said before the Nets faced elimination in Game 4 on Wednesday. "Every team looks to improve. Myself and [General Manager] Rod Thorn will take a look at what we have after the season. We want to upgrade.

"We're not far away from getting back here again next year."

The first order of business could be re-signing point guard Jason Kidd, the runner-up to San Antonio's Tim Duncan in most-valuable-player voting this season, to a long-term contract. The Nets acquired Kidd in an off-season deal that sent point guard Stephon Marbury to the Phoenix Suns, won a franchise-best 52 games and advanced to their first Finals.

Some of the Nets' progress must come from the players already on the roster, according to Scott.

"We lost to Boston in my rookie year," said Scott, a former Laker guard. "All it did was motivate me to work harder in the off-season. I knew if I got better, the other guys on team would get better and we would get back to the Finals. It's the same with this team. Everybody on this team understands he has to get that much better."

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Scott awoke from his afternoon nap Wednesday, wondering if this would be the last time this season that he would catch a few winks on his couch before a game. He refused to divulge his other game-day habits, following a time-honored tradition of refusing to comment on superstitions.

"Earvin used to change his phone number before the playoffs," Scott said, referring to former Laker teammate Magic Johnson. "My thing was all the business matters, all the family matters were tossed aside during the playoffs."

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There has been a good deal of talk in the days leading up to Game 4 about what the Nets learned from their first Finals appearance. Perhaps a little too much talk, according to New Jersey forward Kenyon Martin. He wasn't interested in new life experiences. He wanted to win the championship.

"There's no guarantee that you'll get back here, so you've got to try to seize the moment," he said.

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