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With Dr. J on hand, Long Island Nets win opener in new home

Julius Erving saw his jersey lifted into the rafters at yet another arena Saturday as the Long Island Nets re-opened Nassau Coliseum to professional basketball, beating the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 115-99 in their G League opener.

During a halftime ceremony at the coliseum, now known officially as NYCB Live, Erving’s No. 32 was retired and his long-time mentor, Don Ryan, now the mayor of the Village of Hempstead, was honored with a lifetime achievement award.

The New Jersey Nets long ago retired Doc’s number as have the Philadelphia 76ers and the University of Massachusetts.

The game was a local affair as well, with two Brooklynites, Isaiah Whitehead and Kamari Murphy, both graduates of Coney Island’s Lincoln High School, leading the way. Whitehead, on assignment from Brooklyn, finished with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Murphy, a 6’8” PF who played his college ball at Miami, had an impressive double-double, 21 points and 14 rebounds, even stretching his range to hit a three.

The Nets went up by 22 at the half, led by Whitehead’s backcourt mate, 6’4” Milton Doyle, who had 16 points in 16 minutes, but cooled off, finishing with 20. He shot 4-of-12 from deep. The Mad Ants, the Pacers’ affiliate turned it around and got within four before Whitehead took over.

Also putting up nice numbers for the Nets was two-way player Yakuba Ouattara, another 6’4” guard who had 14 points, including 3-of-6 from deep, and Shannon Scott, who shared the Ohio State backcourt with D’Angelo Russell two years ago. He had 13.

Overall, the young Nets shot 11-of-32 from three.

For Fort Wayne, 25-year-old Walter Lemon Jr. finished with 34 points. He was largely responsible for the Mad Ants comeback.