Walter Lemon Jr. scored 34 points in his return to the Mad Ants lineup, but Fort Wayne lost the opening game of its 11th season 115-99 to the Long Island Nets on Saturday night.
Isaiah Whitehead had 26 points and Kamari Murphy added 21 for the Nets in front of 3,504 fans at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum, where Long Island retired No. 32 in honor of Julius Erving. Dr. J played three seasons with the Nets there in the American Basketball Association from 1974 to 1976, winning two titles and three MVPs.
Lemon, who spent last season playing overseas, made 13 of 28 shots and added six assists and four steals. Teammate Jarrod Uthoff had 17 points, nine rebounds and two shot blocks. And C.J. Fair, also back after a season away, had 14 points.
Fort Wayne will have its home opener Tuesday against Greensboro at Memorial Coliseum.
The Mad Ants, who trailed by as many as 22 points late in the second quarter, cut the lead to 76-74 after three.
But the Nets were reinvigorated in the fourth quarter and went on a nine-point run, culminating with a Shannon Scott putback, to retake control.