Brooklyn Nets: Is Rivalry With New York Knicks Legitimate?

Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) drives to the basket past New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are facing off against the New York Knicks tonight. With the game getting a national TV spot, here is a look at the Nets and Knicks rivalry.

With the Nets and Knicks facing off tonight at 7:00, it is time to look at this “rivalry.” First off, this is being brought up because the game will be televised on national TV. ESPN decide to broadcast this game to the whole country. It is surprising because there are much better games that could have been broadcasted tonight. The Bulls and Hawks face off at 7:30, and the Thunder and Raptors face off at 8:00. Those two games alone seem much more appealing than two teams that seem destined for another year of losing records. It may have to do with their tip-off time of 7 o’clock, but whatever the case may be, the Nets and Knicks got the nod.

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The most likely reason that the Nets and Knicks have a national TV game tonight is because of their “rivalry.” The Battle of the Boroughs is an appealing idea, but do the Nets and Knicks really have a rivalry? Well, I put the word ‘rivalry’ in quotations twice for a reason, and that is because they do not have a  rivalry, yet. The Nets and Knicks do not have the history to back up a good rivalry. Both teams have been historically bad. In fact, people can debate which franchise has been worse over the last 40 to 50 years, but that is for another day.

Feb 19, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Langston Galloway (2) controls the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Postseason and Regular season

The Nets and Knicks have only met in the postseason three times. All three times were in the first round of the playoffs. For two teams in the same division, that is hard to imagine, considering the Nets have been in the NBA for 40 seasons now. The Knicks won two of the three playoff series against the Nets. One time was in 1983 when the Knicks won the series 2-0. They wouldn’t meet again in the postseason until 1994, when the Knicks would win the series 3-1. And 10 years later, the Nets and Knicks would go head-to-head in the postseason in 2004. The Nets would sweep that series 4-0. 13 years later, and the Nets and Knicks have not met in the playoffs since.

To put it into perspective, Stephon Marbury was the Knicks’ starting point guard, and Jason Kidd was the Nets/ starting point guard. Kidd is now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marbury has been playing in China since 2009. It just seems like this rivalry is long overdue.

Some may point to the Nets’ and Knicks’ regular season matchups to constitute a rivalry. It is true that the Nets and Knicks do face each other four times every season. And in their 193 total games against each other, the Knicks have a one game advantage, being up 97-96. Even though the all-time series is close, more than half of those seasons are years where one of the two teams, if not both, did not make the playoffs. In fact, since the merger, the Knicks have made the playoffs 22 times, while the Nets have made it 19 times.

To top it off, 40 years since the merger, the Nets and Knicks have only made the playoffs in the same year eight times! This just further proves that one team was bad while the other was good. It explains why their all-time series is so close. Looking at the series record, one may think that both teams have been very good and trading wins throughout the years. The truth is that one team has had an advantage some years, while the other team had a down year, and vice versa.

Apr 1, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) drives past New York Knicks point guard Langston Galloway (2) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Battle of the Weak

The closest thing the Nets and Knicks have had to a rivalry was in 2012-13. The Nets had just made their big move to Brooklyn, while the Knicks had a new revamped roster. Both teams made the playoffs that year and each game had an electrifying atmosphere. The Nets and Knicks split the season series 2-2, and the games had an average point differential of 6.75 points. It was also the first time since the merger that both teams had 49 or more wins in the same season. The rivalry looked like it was going to take off.

But here we are five years later, and the Knicks have not made the playoffs since. As for the Nets, they have had their own problems to deal with. Maybe this will be the year the rivalry finally gets the spark it needs, but it will not be a serious rivalry until the Nets and Knicks are both winning games and finally meet in the playoffs more than just once every decade.

Jan 13, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) dunks over Brooklyn Nets center Andrea Bargnani (9) and guard Shane Larkin (0) and guard Sergey Karasev (10) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Knicks 110-104. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Merger

The only real conflict that ever came between the Nets and Knicks was during the Merger. In the 1976 ABA-NBA merger, the New York Nets were one of four final teams to make the cut. Joining the NBA had its price though. The New York Nets had played in Nassau Coliseum prior to the merger, but the Knicks hit them with an encroaching citation. The Knicks asked the Nets to pay a fee of $4.8 million. During this time, that was a lot of money. Not only that, but the Nets had just paid a fee to the NBA to join the NBA. With their hand forced, the Nets had to shop Julius Erving to pay the fee. At first, the Nets offered Dr. J to the Knicks and in return, that they waive the encroachment fee. The Knicks refused, and it resulted in Dr. J being shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash.

It didn’t end there though. In 1977, the Nets wanted to move back to New Jersey. The Knicks jumped in and tried to block the move, stating that it violated their exclusive territorial rights to New Jersey. The Nets fought back this time, suing the Knicks for violating anti-trust laws. After the NBA and the state of New Jersey got involved, the Nets had to to pay another $4 million to the Knicks to move to New Jersey. This is a great storyline for a rivalry, but the Nets lost their best player and all their finances in the process. It basically cost the Nets the opportunity to compete right away in the NBA.

Do not forget that the New York Nets won the last ABA championship in 1976 and were arguably the best ABA team from 1973 to 1976. They won two championships and could have easily competed for an ABA championship if they could have kept the team together.

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