Visitors Are Feeling Right At Home In Jersey

You can do a lot in 10 days. Drive cross country . . . drop 10 pounds and develop killer abs . . . win a war against a small Middle East country . . . learn a foreign language while you sleep . . . heal a sprained right ankle on your team's superstar.
The Nets have 10 days off in a row, waiting for the Western Conference to catch up and for ABC to turn on the cameras. Presumably, when this ridiculous, prolonged twiddling of thumbs is done, they will face the Spurs in San Antonio on June 4. Meanwhile, the Nets can bask in the reflective glory of their uncommon four-game sweep, of 10 straight playoff victories.
They may yet get burned by the sheer enormity of their well-earned idleness. Their coach, Byron Scott, would prefer five or six days off, tops. But such is the penalty for ruthless efficiency, for the humiliation of an inferior opponent from Detroit in desperate need of an upgrade - scheduled to arrive, too late, via the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Darko Milicic or Carmelo Anthony wasn't there last night for the Pistons, who again were overwhelmed by sheer speed and aggression in a 102-82 rout. The Pistons looked shockingly harmless.
It took all of six seconds before Kenyon Martin, the most animated of pregame cheerleaders, was dunking and dangling from the rim. Then it was just a matter of surviving the foul troubles, and Jason Kidd's turned ankle in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons were upset by Martin's antics, but they couldn't possibly complain about Kidd's plucky performance.
So the Nets advanced to their second straight NBA Finals, requiring only one week to beat Detroit (another thing you can do in 10 days or less). They will not get swept this time in the next round, when they join the Devils in an all-Meadowlands finals-fest.
Ahh, New Jersey. The Nets might best spend these off days educating themselves about their diverse home state, because this is what most of the roster knows about the place: The practice site is near the arena, which is off the Turnpike, which isn't far from Manhattan.
"I'm a West Coast guy," said Richard Jefferson, who lives in West New York during the season and heads back home to Phoenix as often as possible. "I don't go out much. The weather is so horrible."
Been to the Pine Barrens?
"No," Jefferson said.
The Jersey Shore?
"Saw it on MTV Break, one time."
The Delaware Water Gap?
"I thought we were talking about New Jersey," Jefferson said.
There you go. The sad truth is that this group of Nets, so thoroughly dominating the Eastern Conference, is primarily from the ditsy, glitzy West. They aren't Jersey guys at all.
Long gone are the days when New York products and Net stars like Julius Erving, Tiny Archibald, Pearl Washington, Jayson Williams and Stephon Marbury could navigate the bridges and the tunnels to almost anywhere.
Consider the demographics of the current team's top players:
Jefferson grew up in Phoenix and went to college at Arizona.
Kidd lived around Oakland and went to college at California.
Jason Collins was raised near Los Angeles and went to college at Stanford.
Kenyon Martin grew up in Dallas and went to college at Cincinnati.
Lucious Harris grew up in Los Angeles and went to college at Long Beach State.
Kerry Kittles lived in New Orleans before coming perilously close to the New Jersey border at Villanova.
Aaron Williams is from Illinois. You don't even want to ask Dikembe Mutombo about New Jersey. And then there is the coach, Byron Scott, who was raised in the same city, Inglewood, where he would later play most of his pro games for the Lakers.
"I've learned everything I need to know about New Jersey," said Scott, who resides in Livingston during the season. "You take 280 to the 'Pike to the arena."
If you ask the Nets whether they have learned anything about the state, anything to counteract the old stereotypes, it turns out they don't even know the stereotypes.
"Let's just say we didn't spend much time talking about New Jersey where I'm from," Jefferson said.
Jefferson asked where the championship parade would take place. Probably the parking lot, he was told.
"Only in New Jersey," Jefferson said, shaking his head.
He now has 10 days to scout out a different route, to acquaint himself with the Garden State, suddenly center of the sports universe.
E-mail: fjbondy@netscape.net