Kings of the city: Knicks-Nets rivalry raises bar

How big is New York versus New York? Just ask the guy who runs

the place.

”If we were to have a World Series between the Yankees and the

Mets, or a Super Bowl between the Jets and the Giants, or an NBA

championship between these two great teams, No. 1, New York City is

so big, and the people here come from every part of the world and

from every part of America,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

”And it would be the best thing that ever happened to all of

those leagues.”

The Knicks and Brooklyn Nets can’t play for the NBA title, but

competing to be best in the Big Apple is pressure enough.

Bloomberg was speaking at a recent press conference to announce

that the Knicks and Nets would jointly host the 2015 All-Star

weekend. Officials from both clubs and the league took part, all

assuring that the teams get along well and look forward to working

together.

Sure, maybe for one weekend. Don’t expect them to play nice now.

Not with two good teams sharing one passionate city.

It may be a Knicks town, but the Nets think it’s their time.

”Now you’ve got New York Knicks, who won the Atlantic last

year, then you have us coming in here talking about winning the

division, winning the East, winning the championship,” Brooklyn’s

Paul Pierce said. ”So you’ve got two New York teams talking about

trying to obtain the same thing. So obviously it’s going to cause

some type of friction between the two, which is good for the NBA,

which is good for the city.”

Not to mention for ratings – all four meetings are on national

TV, two on ESPN and two on TNT. And certainly for headlines – the

trash talk among players such as Pierce, Jason Terry, J.R. Smith

and Raymond Felton handed local papers plenty of NBA coverage

during the usual dead days of August and September.

Imagine what it will be like when they play in December, or

twice in April – perhaps with a division title or home-court

advantage in a playoff series on the line.

”I think people are making more of it than it really has to be.

It’s only four games out of the year. But it’s going to be heated.

I didn’t get to play in one last year but I’m looking forward to

it,” said the Knicks’ Kenyon Martin, who played for the Nets along

with Jason Kidd when they dominated the Knicks a decade ago.

But it was never really a rivalry back then – or at any point

when the Nets were in New Jersey. They simply weren’t close enough

on a map or in the standings to build what they have now, and

nobody knows it better than Kidd, who played for the Knicks last

season and is now coaching the Nets.

”When I was on the other side, we always measured ourselves

against the Knicks and now that we’re both on the same side of the

river, it is a very competitive and healthy rivalry,” he said.

”And hopefully we can win a couple more games than they do, but

it’s fun for the city to have both teams here.”

Kidd seems comfortable again in his role as Knicks tormentor.

When he saw Anthony at a Sept. 11 charity event, he teased his

former teammate about his impending free agency and taunted him

about how the Nets would defend him.

”He’s already working,” Anthony said.

Throw in noted Knicks adversaries like Pierce and Terry – who

was dropped by an elbow from Smith during last season’s

Knicks-Celtics playoff series – and the Nets suddenly have plenty

of guys who would want to beat the New Yorkers no matter what

uniform they had on.

The fact they’re in the same city just makes them want it that

much more.

”It’s going to be fun,” Pierce said. ”I think those type of

things are fun for the sport, New York-Brooklyn. I think the only

thing that separates us is the bridge and the thing that is going

to make this rivalry I think a little more competitive is because

both teams are contenders.”

It was only 2 1/2 years ago when they seemed further apart than

ever. The Nets were playing in a half-empty building in Newark and

narrowly missed the worst record in NBA history while losing 70

games in 2009-10.

Meanwhile, the Knicks had signed Amare Stoudemire, were on their

way back to the playoffs, and when they beat out the Nets to

acquire Carmelo Anthony in February 2011, seemed positioned to hog

the local spotlight for themselves for years to come.

Things change around here in a New York minute.

Not only did the Nets trade for Deron Williams days later, but

they kept up with the splashy transactions. They got Joe Johnson

last summer, then pulled off the blockbuster with Boston to acquire

Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Terry.

The Knicks held off the Nets for the Atlantic Division title

last season, though the Nets are widely predicted to take it this

time. The only thing the Knicks know for sure they aren’t losing is

their place in the New York basketball pecking order.

”It’s still a Knicks city, that’s not going to change. It’s not

ever going to change,” said the Knicks’ Metta World Peace, who

grew up in the Queensbridge section of Queens. ”There are so many

Knick fans in Brooklyn.”

But there’s now plenty of Brooklyn black and white popping up in

Manhattan, too. From Yankees-Dodgers to Rangers-Islanders, New York

loves its rivalries, and there’s a new one heating up now.

”They are nothing but good and fun for the fans, great for

business, and I think they push the teams that are involved with

them to even greater heights athletically,” Madison Square Garden

chairman James Dolan said. ”So it’s a good thing, and I expect

that that will continue to go on.”

AP freelance writers Ian Harrison in Toronto and Adriano Torres

in New York contributed to this report.

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