The typically blunt Christie said he would shed no tears over the departure of the Nets, who played their final home game of the season Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers as they prepare to move to New York next season.
"My message to them is, goodbye," Christie said at an afternoon news conference at Newark Beth Israel Hospital where he signed a bill to promote organ and tissue donation. "You don't want to stay, we don't want you."
The Nets have played the last two of their 35 years in New Jersey in Newark at the Prudential Center Arena, the high-tech home built by the city of Newark and the NHL's New Jersey Devils in 2007.
The Nets' owners in the 1990s had sought to move the team to Newark from the Meadowlands but couldn't work out financing a new arena. They eventually sold the franchise in 2004 to real estate developer Bruce Ratner, whose plan all along was to move the team to Brooklyn, and the Nets wound up in Newark as they waited for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to be completed.
Christie scoffed at the team's decision to choose New York over New Jersey.
"That's one of the most beautiful arenas in America they have a chance to play in, it's in one of the country's most vibrant cities, and they want to leave here and go to Brooklyn?" he asked. "Good riddance, see you later. I think there'll be some other NBA team who may be looking to relocate and they might look at that arena and the fan base in the New Jersey and New York area and say, 'This is an opportunity to increase our fan base and try something different.'" Nets coach Avery Johnson was more charitable when asked if he sympathized with fans who had been following the team for years.
"I do in a lot of ways because you have some fans who have really been here, supporting the Nets," he said before the game. "You had fans who were here through the 12-win season, losing twice in the finals and that's really rough. It's tough getting there, but it's tough when you lose in the finals. I have been a part of a team that lost in the finals, but they continued to come back."
Told of Christie's comments, Johnson said: "Well again, everyone has an opinion. We're moving on. Hopefully, we'll move on and be successful."
Associated Press writer Tom Canavan contributed to this story.
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