It's the Battle of the Boroughs. But it's been going on for a while between the owners.
We don't know if James Dolan will be in the house tonight, but Mikhail Prokhorov is expected to witness his first Nets - Knicks game. Prokhorov has been low-key on this visit to New York. His press rep didn't even make the trip. That's too bad because Nets fans have come to expect Prokhorov zingers at the expense of his Knick counterpart, James Dolan. There have been some classics since Prokhorov bought the team in 2010 and famously promised to turn their fans into Nets fans.
Here are some of our favorites...
"We will turn Knicks fans into Nets fans. It's part of success." The classic one-liner and the one that set the tone for the Nets in Brooklyn: Give them no quarter. Spoken at a May 2010 press conference at Four Seasons Hotel, Prokhorov made it clear he wasn't going to back down.
The Blueprint for Greatness, 7th Avenue and 34th Street. July 2010. Not a spoken statement but a statement nonethess, all 21,375 square feet, 22 stories of it. Plainly visible from Dolan's MSG offices on Penn Plaza, it so irked the Knicks owner that he made separate phone calls to David Stern and Adam Silver complaining. He claims the signage is sapping the morale of his employees. Prokhorov asked about it, deadpans, "I am looking at the possibility of buying this building and having it shipped back to Moscow and put up on Red Square,"
"That little man." The controversial comment that Will Leitch included in his voluminous report on the Nets move to Brooklyn this August. As long as it was, the most highly quotable line were three little words: "Prokhorov told me back in December that he plans on attending a quarter of the regular-season games and 'all the playoff ones.' He also made sure that I heard him call Dolan 'that little man.'" Prokhorov didn't apologize and didn't quite deny he said it either.
In September 2012, two months ago, FOX5's Rosanna Scotto asked the Nets owner, "Mr. Prokhorov, are the Nets ready to take on the Knicks?" Prokhorov squinted, pretending not to understand the question. "Excuse me, what is the name?" he asked Scotto. Then, he lit up in mock recognition. "Ah, oh, Knicks. Yes, I've heard about this second team in New York." He hadn't lost it.
In late October, Steve Serby of the Post asked if he was Dolan's biggest nightmare. "Are you kidding?" Prokhorov responded. "We’ll be their dream come true! Having a rivalry in New York is great for everyone. This city will have so much to talk about and cheer about." He missed opportunity to go deep when he tells Serby he would rather share a pizza with Dolan than play him one-on-one. Too bad.
He made similar comments to David Aldridge in November, again seeming to tone down his personal rivalry with Dolan. But when Aldridge asked if he wanted to win the rivalry, Prokhorov said, simply, "Just from inside, I'm always a winner."
There have been other less well known comments like when Prokhorov once told an interviewer that he considered buying the Knicks but Dolan wouldn't sell ... and besides he didn't think buying into Cablevision's debt-laden operation was such a good idea anyway.