In the NBA world nothing is better than a good rivalry. They bring the best out of players, make early games feel like the playoffs, and can really add a whole new importance to what would otherwise be just another game. The battles between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are legendary and have elevated the status of some of the great players of the game. Even Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls games are fun to watch, despite the lack of history.
So when it was announced the New Jersey Nets were becoming the Brooklyn Nets, the wheels in fans’ minds started turning. Two teams in New York? Surely the historical New York Knicks had something to say about that.
Unfortunately, that was about it for the rivalry. Things never progressed past talk.
The Nets and Knicks never truly seemed to be evenly matched until this year. The Knicks reloaded around their core, and the Nets had a real title-or-bust looking team. Finally, they would battle it out and settle who truly the greatest team in New York was. Then the trash talk started. Paul Pierce, true to form, enraged Knicks fans by saying it was time for the Nets to take over. JR Smith, ever the talker, called Pierce bitter. The bad blood has leaked into games when Knicks forward Andrea Bargnani was ejected from the game after talking some trash to Nets forward Kevin Garnett.
But what about basketball?
So far, this rivalry hasn’t been half as fun as it was supposed to be. Every other rivalry in the NBA goes beyond tense games and an extra foul or two. When two teams that hate each other as much as the Nets and Knicks do share the same conference, heck, the same city, there should be more.
We expected the two teams to be neck and neck in the standings leading up to an epic playoff series filled with Garnett’s screams, Pierce’s clutch shots, and Carmelo Anthony’s huge nights. These two teams aren’t going to fight for a top seed. Heck, they might not even make the playoffs. But saying that is giving too much credit. What this has really come down to is not a matter of who can win the banner, but who is going to manage to stink less by the end of the season.
Sure, Nets vs. Knicks games get chippy and some smack gets talked from one city to the next, but there’s no substance. The rivalry feels irrelevant. The Nets can’t focus on showing up the Knicks when they have spilled drinks to clean up! The Knicks are too focused on making sure their big star stays in town to care if anyone else plays any defense.
Rivalries just aren’t as much fun if there isn’t much winning. Sure the Nets and Knicks may not like each other, but if the only implications are who gets closest to .500, who cares?