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Saturday, October 9, 2010
Dear Melo: A postcard from Purgatory

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

Prudential Center
Note to Carmelo Anthony: You think Denver is cold? Try playing at the Prudential Center.

NEWARK, N.J. -- Time for an open letter to Carmelo Anthony, whose acquisition will remain the No. 1 quest for the New Jersey Nets between now and the trading deadline in mid-February.

Dear Melo:

Greetings from Purgatory, where the Nets played their final home game of the preseason Saturday afternoon and pulled off the impossible, making three 3-pointers in the final 12.5 seconds to come back from a seven-point deficit and defeat Philadelphia 90-89.

I call it Purgatory because that's the most fitting name for the Prudential Center, the downtown Newark arena the Nets will call home for the next two seasons until they make their move to the borough where you were born, Brooklyn.

The Nets still think they can get you, Melo, because the package they are willing to offer -- Derrick Favors, two No. 1 picks, Troy Murphy and a throw-in, perhaps Quinton Ross (which is all the Nets have left to show from trading Richard Jefferson) -- trumps anything else Denver will be offered over the course of the next four months.

Carmelo Anthony
The Nets still think they can land Anthony, but we'd strongly advise him to weigh all his options before agreeing to a deal.

What the Nets fear more than anything is that you'll tell the Nuggets you will not agree to sign an extension unless it entails a deal sending you to the New York Knicks, who are trying to get you on the cheap with an offer of Eddy Curry's expiring contract, Anthony Randolph, a first-round pick and a cap-filler (e.g. Ronny Turiaf).

Both teams feel you will eventually force the Nuggets' hand and make them move you, because they do not want to risk losing you for nothing on the free-agent market next summer (if there is a free-agent market next summer, given the possibility of a lockout).

If you decide what Jay-Z whispered in your ear over the summer (unofficially, of course, because otherwise it would be tampering) is enough to convince you to be the centerpiece of that move to Brooklyn in 2012, you at least need to have a scouting report on what you'll experience in Newark in the interim.

First, the Pru Center is a nicer place than the Meadowlands, but it is not without its faults.

For example, on the short walk from the court to the Nets' locker room there are seven -- yes, seven -- large metal rodent traps tucked in the corners but in clear view if you look closely enough.

Second, it is cold inside.

NBA players often say there is no colder arena than the TD Garden in Boston, where the ice the Bruins play on combined with the cold draft that comes in from North Station downstairs makes the warm-up outfit a mandatory piece of apparel to defend against the chill. But the Nets' temporary home makes that place seem balmy by comparison. It's like a meat locker or one of those centralized keg-cooling rooms teams use to keep all the beer in the arena safe, secure and frosty.

Third, it's loud, but in a crass way. If you want to hear an announcer shout, "Who wants a T-shirt?" in a voice so amplified they can probably hear it all the way down in Piscataway (the Nets' purgatory when the Meadowlands was being built), this is the place for you. Yep, no one does artificial noise like the Nets, who used to pipe recorded crowd noise over the loudspeakers in their old home to make up for the lack of people in the seats making actual noise.

You'll see odd things here in Newark, too, like the moment Saturday between the third and fourth quarters in which the significant other of former Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner ran along the baseline to give an extended greeting and hug to referee Violet Palmer. You'll also see a large, black curtain draping off a whole section of the upper deck, hiding a huge swath of seats that will likely go unsold every night, except when the Heat or Lakers are in town.

The Nets won't be back in this building for another 18 days because they must play their final four exhibition games on the road. Their next two will be in China against the Rockets (after they make a pit stop Sunday in Moscow, home city of their new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, to conduct a clinic). But you'll have a hard time finding anything to read about the Nets during their trip because not a single beat writer is accompanying the team, despite the Nets' offer to provide transportation to the news outlets that cover the team. Even the writer from the team's website is being left behind, although there will be a videographer in the traveling party who will be able to document the doings of every member of the roster except Murphy, who is skipping the trip after the Nets announced Saturday he will be out indefinitely with a disk problem in his back.

"I think it's a great opportunity to go places and meet people you've never met before, and it's great with us having foreign ownership," coach Avery Johnson said. "We're going to be a team that is possibly going to be more of a global brand because of our ownership. We may even have training camp in Russia next year."

Just think, Melo, training camp in Russia. Maybe they'll even hold it in Siberia.

At least that'll get you prepared for what would await you in the 2011-12 season: A full year of purgatory in a chilly place where earplugs and ear muffs are going to be required accessories unless someone on the Nets has the good sense to turn up the heat and turn down the emcee's microphone.

Those are just a few things for you to consider in case the Nuggets come to you and say they have a deal in place with New Jersey that is contingent upon you agreeing to sign with Prokhorov's franchise for the long term.

And if you agree, don't say you weren't warned about what's in store over the short term.

Sincerely,

Chris Sheridan ESPN.com

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