By John Schmeelk
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When the Nets played in New Jersey they competed with the Knicks, but there was no real rivalry. Even when the Nets were better than the Knicks a decade ago, no one really took the team in New Jersey seriously to the point where they were relevant in the New York sports scene. Those days are over.
Before the game last night, Tyson Chandler pointed out that the Knicks-Nets rivalry wasn’t real since there wasn’t any playoff animosity between the two. He felt a much larger rivalry existed with the Celtics or the Heat. By the way he played last night, looking about as active as he has all year, it was pretty obvious he was especially ready to beat the Nets. Brooklyn born Carmelo Anthony was borderline emotional about the game.
But perhaps the most important part of a rivalry is how the fan bases react to one another. It is very obvious that for the time Knicks fans are very sensitive when it comes to the Nets. One mention one twitter that resembles something positive about the Nets gets the most defensive reactions. Likewise, long time Nets fans are rightfully feeling confident. They will tell you they think the Nets are better than the Knicks and they believe it.
Both fan bases think their teams are better and are confident and numerous enough to let their opinions be heard far and wide. The Nets have a legitimately large fan base in Brooklyn, nothing that rivals the Knicks, but it’s stronger than it was in New Jersey and growing. You wonder where all these new Brooklyn Nets fans came from, did they switch from other teams (the Knicks?) or are they new basketball fans all together? I’m not sure, but it really doesn’t matter. They are there and passionate about their team.
When New Yorkers identify themselves, they don’t say they are from New York. They say they are from Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. As a life-long Knicks fan that grew up in Brooklyn, I understand how people in that borough would connect to the Nets quickly and with such fervor. It’s not in my DNA to switch team allegiances, but if I said there wasn’t a soft spot for the Nets I would be lying. It’s Brooklyn, and if you were born and raised there you want it to succeed. There’s pride there. Anyone who truly was born and raised in Brooklyn would say the same.
It’s one of the reasons Nets fans are so confident and brazen. It’s part of them, and part of everyone that grew up in the borough. It’s a basketball turf war. There were tons of Knicks fans in Brooklyn, but now all those Nets fans don’t like all that orange and blue in their hood. It’s a lot of fun and something will be great for New York, basketball and the borough. There’s a real disdain growing, and that’s good for the game in the city.
This morning Nets fans everywhere have their chest puffed out and rightfully so. Knicks fans are a little quiet, but some are panicking. That’s something I don’t understand. The Nets are a good team, and the Knicks lost to them in their building and in overtime. There is no shame in that. If Raymond Felton doesn’t play his worst game of the year, shooting 3-19 with five turnovers, the Knicks win. Sure, some of that has to do with Deron Williams’ defense, but he had a ton of easy looks he usually makes down the stretch.
Rasheed Wallace, J.R. Smith, Corey Brewer and Steve Novak combined to shoot 6-27. That means everyone not named Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler shot 9-46. Even with the Nets strong defense, that isn’t going to happen very often. The ball didn’t move for the Knicks on offense, finishing with just 14 assists. They were undisciplined on defense with indiscriminant double teams and foolish switches. (though the effort and passion was back) The Knicks still sent the game to overtime against a good team on the road. Carmelo Anthony could have won it if he hit a relatively open shot from 17 feet away. If he doesn’t miss six free throws it might be a different result as well. I’ll get more into the small things Mike Woodson needs to work on as the season goes along, especially late game execution.
I hope everyone enjoyed the first round of the New York rivalry last night. The Nets struck the first blow. It was great to watch. It was hard fought, gritty, emotional, physical and sometimes ugly basketball. It was New York basketball and it was a lot of fun. And it’s only the beginning.
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Can the Knicks-Nets rivalry only get feistier and more emotional? Sound off below…