NBA Rivalry Day, New York Edition

Another day, another theme. This one's all about our biggest rival.

If you asked the majority of Net fans who their biggest rivals are, it'd be an easy answer. They hate this team with a passion, they see the team's fanbase as smug & elite, they're tired of that team's perceived overratedness (that's probably not a word, but whatever) with relation to being an NBA power and being shunned during periods of success in favor of a team that was, politely speaking, a catastrophe. What team am I talking about?


Photo from The New York Times

Why the New York Knicks (in their new jerseys) of course!

Take the jump and we'll get into the rivalry between the two franchises.

When we think of rivalries in the classical sense, we think of teams that engage in hard-fought, intense playoff series over multiple seasons. Some that come to mind are Lakers-Kings from the mid 2000s, Bulls-Pistons from the 1980s, and Knicks-Bulls from the 1990s. Obviously the Knicks & Nets don't approach that, but they have some postseason experience against each other. They've faced each other two times in the playoffs, but neither series was groundbreaking. In 1994, the Knicks beat the Nets 3-1 in the FIrst Round. And in 2004, the Nets swept the Knicks 4-0 in Round 1. The reason there haven't been that many playoff matchups between the organizations is because both teams haven't been good at the same time. When the Knicks were battling Indiana, Miami & Chicago in the 1990s, the Nets were at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. And when the Nets went on their streak of playoff appearances in the mid 2000s, the Knicks were a trainwreck. The expectation going forward is that both teams will be near the top of the Eastern Conference so we should be getting some playoff matchups between the two teams in the coming seasons.

What the teams have lacked in playoff action, they've made up for it in the trash talking department. Let's take a trip back to the 2004 Playoffs. The series wasn't memorable on the court, but there were some theatrics off the court. Tim Thomas, who was injured at the time had this to say about Net power forward Kenyon Martin:

"He's fugazy as far as the whole tough guy role. You get techs and you get fines and that makes you tough? Because your game is wild and crazy, that makes you tough? When a scuffle breaks out, you have 13 guys that can protect you. When it's you and someone else, what happens then?

"Somebody call Don King and hook it up for us."

How'd Martin respond to this slight? By not actually trying to fight him because most NBA players are pussies wearing the "Whiny Tim" headline from the Daily News (unfortunately, there are no images of this on the Internet machine). And by finishing off the sweep in Madison Square Garden.

We take our time machine to the winter of 2004 and our man Starbury. Never one to be shy, Stephon took a swipe at Net point Jason Kidd when he said:

"I know I'm the best point guard in the N.B.A."

"I don't need anybody else to tell me that."

And the next time they played, Marbury actually was the best PG on the court. It's important to note that Kidd was just coming off of offseason knee surgery so he wasn't at full strength for that matchup. And we should note that Kidd locked Steph down in the playoff series the spring before.

Maybe we have a few people here, but 19 [thousand people] were a little upset ... we like that," said Humphries

Pretty much everyone who isn't a Nets fan hates Kris Humphries, but the hate was on another level at the Garden. It takes a hell of a lot to get booed everytime you touch the ball in a nothing preseason game. He doesn't help himself when he acts, as Posting and Toasing writer extraordinaire Seth put it, obnoxiously while shutting up the raucous NYC crowd.

Never known to be quiet, Mikhail Prokhorov decided to join the party. In a New York Magazine piece, Prokhorov made sure to throw a jab at the Knicks big boss by calling him "little man." Part of that is just good fun between teams sharing the same market, but...

That could be due to Prokhorov losing out on what was considered to be the prize of the 2010-2011 trading season, Carmelo Anthony to Dolan & Friends at MSG. Time, and the presence of Deron Williams a short time later, has healed this wound, but it didn't feel that way at the time for a large portion of the Nets fanbase. Both teams lost out on the LeBron sweepstakes, but when Melo made it known he wanted out of Denver, the Knicks and Nets both went hard after him. One similarity between the teams bases is that there were some (*raises hand) members who wanted no part of Anthony on their team. Despite the dissenting opinions, the majority of each base wanted Melo. Of course, the whole ordeal was torture as everyone was subjected to months of stop-&-start rumors, All Star weekend meetings & millions of hours spent debating the merits of Anthony, his status among the best players in the league, etc.

One key aspect of a rivalry is how the opposing fanbases see each other. But, the anger seems to be coming from only one side. There's plenty of hate on our side for the Knicks. Some of that is hatred for divisional opponents, some of it's envy, but I think the overwhelming majority of the dislike had for the Knicks is from a lack of recognition of the Nets successes with Jason Kidd. In the mid 2000s, the Nets were competing for the playoffs every year, but could only make it as high as 18th in total attendance. Add to that the back page wars don't go the way of New Jersey teams (& hockey) and you've got a whole lot of resentment being built up against the team (New York) that's being given more coverage than you, especially when that team's play doesn't warrant the coverage.

When we take NYK's point of view, they don't feel the same way. When asked who their biggest rivals were, 45% of the fans who answered the poll chose the Boston Celtics. That post generally goes with the prevailing point of view of the Knicks-Nets rivalry, which is the Knicks don't see a rivalry at all. With the way the rosters are currently set up and the expectations going forward, the Nets might finally make it onto the Knicks rivalry radar.

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