Since learning his moves on the asphalt courts of Brooklyn, Stephon Marbury has dreamed of playing in New York as a pro.
He's happy to settle for a few miles outside Manhattan.
Marbury joined the New Jersey Nets Friday, eager to reach his lofty basketball goals just outside the city called the "Mecca of Basketball."
Hours before the Nets' game against Philadelphia -- about a dozen exits south on the New Jersey Turnpike -- Marbury was introduced at a news conference with his mother and father seated in the front row. A day after being traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves in a nine-player deal, Marbury signed a $70.9 million, six-year contract with the Nets and proclaimed his lifelong dreams fulfilled.
Well, not quite. Winning would be nice. From the New York playgrounds to the NBA, that's the true way to measure men of Marbury's talent.
"I prayed for this day to come since I was a child," Marbury said. "For all the things that we've wanted to achieve in life, it's all coming true. It's a dream. For it to happen here, it's unbelievable."
The excitement that Marbury's arrival sent shooting through the Nets organization had to be tempered almost immediately. It was not certain that Marbury would play Friday night against the Sixers. The league still had to officially approve the trade and Marbury's contract. And the results of Marbury's physical exam still weren't finalized.
Marbury's agent, David Falk, predicted that the Nets would soon agree to terms with Marbury's new backcourt mate, Kerry Kittles. Marbury was adamant that New Jersey had to keep Kittles if he was going to play for them.
"If it can be done (Saturday) we'll certainly try it," Falk said. "If it can't, then we'll try to do it in July."
For the Nets, bringing Marbury home was perhaps the only way they could salvage a difficult season in which they had the worst record in the Eastern Conference. It saved coach John Calipari's job for now, but perhaps that will last only if he wins with the true point guard he's always coveted.
Marbury, the prodigal son of a basketball family from New York's Coney Island, always has wanted to play for the Knicks. New York reportedly made a last-minute offer to Minnesota, but it wasn't enough.
New Jersey also got Chris Carr and Bill Curley from the Timberwolves and Elliot Perry from Milwaukee in the blockbuster trade.
It brings Marbury back home; if not to the heart of the city where he grew up, only a short distance away.
"A lot of people ask me, `What about New York?'" Marbury said. "Well, God does everything for a reason. I accept where I'm going, and I thank the New Jersey Nets for giving me the opportunity to come here and perform."
Marbury's motherMabel, wasn't crazy about the idea of her son coming home. Too many distractions, she said. Too much chaos. Marbury had escaped all that, hadn't he?
| Stephon Marbury is eyeing a future close to home. (AP)|
"It's the big city, and a lot of things are happening in New York," she said. "Minnesota is so laid back."
His father, Donald Marbury, didn't share that opinion.
"His name is Marbury," he said. "What else can I say? What distractions? There's no more distraction that winning the New York City championship."
After weeks of lengthy phone conversations with his family, Marbury decided that he and Falk would pursue a trade -- preferably to a New York area team. He wasn't worried about following another great New York point guard, Kenny Anderson, who never lived up to expectations with the Nets.
"I've been walking around with that since I was a kid, with the pressure of winning a city championship all my life," Marbury said. "So I had the weight of New York City on my shoulders all along. I don't think this is going to be any different."
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