It was a night worthy of a Sheheheyanu: The New Jersey Nets playing their first game in their new home at Newark’s Prudential Center against Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Super League on Oct. 3.
The game also featured the debut of new Nets guard Jordan Farmar, who, along with Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings, is one of the NBA’s two Jewish players.
A crowd of 5,174 came out on a chilly and rainy Sunday evening, but what they lacked in numbers they made up in volume in support of the visiting squad, owned by former West Orange resident Jeffrey Rosen.
“It’s good to be home,” said Rosen, who now lives in Florida. “It’s been an exciting day. Our team is enjoying the thrill of playing an NBA team and yet taking it seriously as a nice challenge and a test as we get ready for our own season.”
Maccabi Haifa was coming off a 75-63 loss to Paris-Levallois in the first leg of the Eurochallenge Qualifying Round in France on Sept. 28.
Proud mom Stacy Harvey said more than 75 family and friends had come from New City, NY, and beyond to cheer on her son, Brett, one of the newest members of the Haifa team. Harvey, a point guard from Loyola University Maryland, was signed by Haifa out of a July tryout camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Rosen credited United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ for helping arrange the game, which benefited the Haifa Hoops for Kids program. The program provides free tickets for underprivileged and special needs children in northern Israel.
Maccabi Haifa kept things interesting for the first half, but fell behind in the third and fourth quarters as the Nets surged to a 108-70 win. Sylven Landesberg, a six-foot-six small forward from Flushing who played at the University of Virginia from 2008-10, led Haifa with 24 points. Six players for the Nets scored in double figures.
Farmer, a popular member of the Los Angeles Lakers from 2006-10 following his collegiate career at UCLA, scored seven points in 19 minutes off the bench. He also pulled down four rebounds and made two assists and a steal.
Rosen was happy to see the players shmoozing with well-wishers, refusing to leave. “Looking around, seeing all these guys signing autographs, it’s a lovely way to end the evening,” said Rosen.
During the conversation, a Haifa staffer approached Rosen to ask if there were any more souvenir hats to give away; a young fan had lost hers during the game and was distraught. Without hesitation, Rosen proffered his own cap, to the youngster’s delight. “If I made her happy, then I’m happy,” Rosen said.