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TOMJANOVICH RESIGNS AS COACH OF ROCKETS

Rudy Tomjanovich stepped down as coach to take another job with the Houston Rockets on Friday after 12 seasons that included the franchise's only two NBA championships.

Tomjanovich, who had cut his season short for treatment of bladder cancer, said he looked forward to resuming a more normal lifestyle.

"Just to be one of the people in this city, being a soldier instead of a general for awhile, I look forward to that," Tomjanovich said, choking back tears as he announced his decision.

"I just think at this stage, with the health situation, that the best thing is to back off and try to be just a regular guy for a while."

Tomjanovich, appearing at a news conference with longtime friend and General Manager Carroll Dawson, confirmed news reports about his negotiations with owner Les Alexander to take another position despite having two years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

"We are blessed to have as capable a guy as I know," Dawson said. "I am sure one day he will be in the Hall of Fame."

Tomjanovich, 54, took over as the Rockets' coach midway into the 1991-92 season and compiled a 503-397 record, easily becoming the winningest of the team's nine coaches. The Rockets' titles in 1994 and 1995 were the city's first titles in a major sports league.

Only Utah's Jerry Sloan, who just completed his 15th season, had a longer tenure among active coaches than Tomjanovich.

Nets go for clincher

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets are playing so well, they can hit a big shot even when there's no game.

The latest hero is backup guard Anthony Johnson, who gave his teammates the day off by banking in a shot from halfcourt Friday at the Nets' practice gym.

"I didn't call it, but I'll take it. It's cool to have a day off," Johnson said. "I was hot last night. I had a feeling I would knock it down."

Coach Byron Scott said if any player made the shot, practice would be canceled. There were only three players left in line when Johnson hit pay dirt, and he led the team off the court with arms raised in celebration -- although all of them returned later to do some light shooting on their own.

The Nets are in rarified air, having won nine straight playoff games. It's the fourth-longest single-season playoff streak in NBA history, tied with the 1996 Bulls and 1982 Lakers.

The Nets can make it 10 in a row tonight, when they try to complete a sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals (8 p.m., ESPN). The record is 12 by the 1999 Spurs, a mark that until recently seemed safe from the franchise in the Meadowlands.

"We're down, but we're not out," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're in a tough spot, obviously. But there's 25 other teams sitting out there that would love to have an opportunity to win one more game."

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