WRONG TURN IN JERSEY
A team featuring Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson was expected to reign over the NBA's weakest division. Instead, the New Jersey Nets (9-14, including a 6-8 record at home and a 2-8 mark against Western Conference opponents) fell one game behind Boston on Saturday in an Atlantic Division race that has only amplified the stark difference between the conferences.
The Celtics (10-13), because of their Atlantic Division-leading status, are fourth in the Eastern standings. Their record not only would put them out of the playoffs in the West but would also put them 14th out of the 15 teams in that conference.
As for the Nets, they were 11-12 last season, but had winning streaks of 10 and 14 games later to finish 49-33.
Allen Iverson, expected to be traded soon by Philadelphia after 11 seasons with the 76ers, is one of only five active players who have been in the NBA for at least 10 seasons and played for only one team. The others are Kevin Garnett (12 seasons with Minnesota), Kobe Bryant (11 with the Lakers), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (11 with Cleveland) and Tim Duncan (10 with San Antonio).
Like NBA players, consumers will get some relief from the new ball. Spalding said on its website that it is offering $115 refunds to those who bought and want to return the microfiber ball after the league said it would switch back to the leather ball on Jan. 1.
-- PAUL NETTER