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Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 12:00 am

It looks as if the dream ride is coming to an end for the New Jersey Nets. For years the Nets were an NBA joke whose main role was to be a patsy for almost every other team. Things changed when they obtained Jason Kidd from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for flashy but selfish shooting guard Stephon Marbury. The arrival of Kidd led to appearances, albeit losing ones, in the last two NBA Finals.

It looks as if the Nets will be lucky to even make the playoffs. Jason Kidd’s knees are killing him and when he is not in the lineup the Nets lose practically all of their spark. Even worse, two of the team’s prominent players, Kenyon Martin and Alonzo Mourning, were nearly at each other’s throats during a heated practice last week. The Martin-Mourning verbal sparring was particularly ugly as Martin, a guy who is not exactly a Rhodes scholar, made fun of Mourning’s past kidney ailments. Mourning understandably went ballistic when he heard Martin running his mouth. Nets head coach Byron Scott may be relieved that he is in his last year of his contract.

According to the Jets public relations department, an army of West Virginia sports media descended on Giants Stadium last Sunday to watch two Marshall University quarterback alumni, the Jets’ Chad Pennington and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Byron Leftwich meet head-to-head for the first time in their NFL careers. It did not turn out to be a great day for Marshall U. as both Pennington and Leftwich were underwhelming to say the least. Neither QB was able to lead a touchdown drive until late in the fourth quarter when each led their team into the end zone. The mediocre Jets were able to eke out a 13-10 win over an inferior competitor.

If we are to believe Major League Soccer officials, 14-year-old Freddy Adu, who was born in Ghana but raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., is going to be the next Pele of their sport. Adu signed a multi-million-dollar contract with the league last week at a press conference which was held at Madison Square Garden. Adu will probably play with his hometown team, the D.C. United, but if his on-field performance is anything near the hype he has received, then MLS Commissioner Don Garber had better find a way to place him with the MetroStars, the MLS’s justifiably ignored New York franchise.

Granted these are not the best of times for Knicks fans but then again there have always been plenty of valleys in the team’s 56-year history. Dennis D’Agostino worked in the Knicks public relations department for a dozen years but more importantly was as passionate a fan of the team as you will find. He has written “Garden Glory” (Triumph Books) which recaps the NBA’s New York flagship franchise from 1947 right until today. What makes this book remarkable is that he was able to get quotes from anyone who was anyone in Knicks history. Past stars as Vince Boryla, Willis Reed, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Trent Tucker and Derek Harper, team broadcasters as Marv Albert, John Andariese, Spencer Ross and Bob Wolff, to ex-coaches as Pat Riley, Hubie Brown, John MacLeod and Stu Jackson, former executives as Al Bianchi, Dave Checketts, and Forest Hills’ own Ernie Grunfeld all weigh in on how they saw developments as they occurred for the Knickerbockers.

I would not take very seriously reports that Mo Vaughn will be back at first base for the Mets next year. Vaughn’s arthritic knees will prevent him from rekindling his career. The Mets are hoping that insurance proceeds will pay off 75 percent of his contract but they have to prove beyond a doubt that Mo can no longer perform his baseball duties.

Welcome to the discussion.