EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey, AP
Hollywood is just fine with the New Jersey Nets. Not only do Jason Kidd and his teammates think they can knock off the two-time defending champion Lakers in the NBA finals, but going back to Los Angeles is like a homecoming for half the squad.
Starting forward Keith Van Horn and reserves Lucious Harris, Jason Collins, Richard Jefferson and Brian Scalabrine all were born in the Los Angeles area.
Then there’s coach Byron Scott. He was born in Inglewood near the Forum and spent 11 of 14 NBA seasons with the Lakers, playing a major part in their championship teams under Pat Riley.
“I love this challenge. I couldn’t have written a better script,” Scott said. “I’m going back to L.A. to coach in the NBA Finals. It’s a dream come true for me. Everything is in order. You always want to play the best and now we’re getting a chance to face the best.”
It also will be fun to get together with friends and relatives.
Harris’ parents still live in Los Angeles, along with four sisters and three brothers.
“It will be a great family reunion, a real homecoming,” Harris said Monday before the Nets boarded a charter flight for Los Angeles. “I can’t wait to get there.”
The excitement actually started for Harris moments after the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 112-106 in overtime in the Western Conference finals.
“I had my phone ringing with my family and friends calling for tickets,” he said. “I had to turn the phone off, there were so many calls.”
Unlike most of his fellow Los Angeles natives, Harris wasn’t a Lakers fan. He liked Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
Van Horn, who was raised in Diamond Bar, California, loved the Lakers.
“I used to watch all those games growing up,” said Van Horn, who hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers late in Games 5 and 6 in eliminating the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I was a big fan of all those Lakers teams,” he said. “It’s a great feeling that can’t be matched, just unbelievable. First, we beat Boston in Boston, now I’m going home to L.A. to play in the NBA Finals. I couldn’t have scripted it better myself.”
The same holds true for Kidd, who played his college ball at California, and Collins, a Stanford product.
“I grew up as a Laker fan, so after we beat the Celtics, why not beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals,” Kidd said. “That would be just perfect.”
Collins, who undoubtedly will get plenty of playing time as the Nets try to match up against Shaquille O’Neal, was another Lakers fan growing up in North Hollywood.
“If you lived in L.A., you had to be a Laker fan,” the rookie center said. “I was so into that team back then. But now, I’m a New Jersey Nets fan. I’m not a Laker fan anymore.”
No one on the Nets bleeds more purple and gold than Scott.
When things got rough this season, he always had a “Riles” story to tell or a championship ring that he could pull out of his pocket for motivation. If that didn’t work, there was always an old Laker like Magic Johnson who would drop in for a chat.
“It’s one of the greatest organizations in all of sports,” Scott said. “I loved being there, playing there and now going back there as a coach. Most of the people I knew are gone from there. Magic is still around, but Jerry West left recently. Dr. Buss is still there. But the `Showtime’ era is over.”
And if the Nets’ play is equal to their confidence level, the Shaq and Kobe dream of three in a row also will end.