Is a New Rivalry Brewing?

NETS V KNICKS SWith Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokholov on the cusp of taking a controlling stake in the Nets, many analysts have suggested that Prokholov has the drive and the deep pockets to help facilitate the organization’s long-desired move to Brooklyn, while spending on next summer’s crop of quality free agents. If all of these things come to fruition, it is assumed the Nets will become instant rivals with the Knicks, both geographically and fiscally.

Despite being separated by a river, the Knicks and Nets have been true rivals very infrequently in ther collective NBA histories. NetsAreScorching spoke with Mike Kurylo from the TrueHoop Knicks site, to get his take on a future Knicks/Nets rivalry. NAS also weighed in.

1. Do you view the Knicks and the Nets in their current form as natural rivals?

Mike Kurylo: It’s hard to be rivals when both teams aren’t doing well. It’s kinda like the two worst guys on the basketball bench. Although they’re technically fighting each other for playing time, there’s really nothing at stake. Look at some of the rivals in sports and you’ll see two great teams going at it.

Mark Ginocchio: They’re really not rivals, but they should be, regardless of how both teams are currently performing in the standings. At the very least, I would hope more Nets fans and more importantly, Nets players understand that even during their back-to-back Finals appearances, they have always been the red-headed stepchild in this media market, despite literally being a tunnel away.

2. When, if ever, have you viewed the rivalry between the two teams at its peak?

Mike Kurylo: For me it was probably 2004 when the Knicks made the playoffs. It was a fiesty series, with some intense action between Tim Thomas/Kenyon Martin and Frank Williams/Jason Kidd. Other than that, the two have never been that good at the same time.

Mark Ginocchio: I always felt in the early part of this decade, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson embraced a rivalry with the Knicks more than past Nets players. RJ especially liked to run his mouth whenever the Knicks and Nets played. Yes, the 1st round series in 2004 between the two teams was chippy, but the Nets completely dominated those four games from start to finish. I always believed if there was ever any animosity, it was born out of the fact the Nets had just come off back-to-back finals appearances, yet still got very little attention in the area. They went out of their way to show up the Knicks in that series and I don’t think the Knicks players were expecting it.

3. How would a move to Brooklyn affect the relationship between the Knicks and Nets? Would the Nets be able to siphon off any disenfranchised Knicks fans with a new arena and proximity in Brooklyn?

Mike Kurylo: Yes to the second question. In New York, nearly everyone becomes a Knick fan by default. However the Nets would give a viable second option for basketball fans. But they need to establish themselves there. I’m shocked that they don’t take the name Brooklyn Dodgers. Perhaps Los Angeles still owns the rights – but still you’d convert a lot of people who descended from Dodger fans (like my uncle) who just loved that team. Although ultimately winning will do more to convert fans over than anything else.

Mark Ginocchio: For the Nets to successfully make a dent in the Knicks fan base, they will have to make the Barclays Arena as accessible to the casual fan as possible. The team will become a phenomenon the way everything else in Brooklyn becomes a “scene.” People realize there’s an interesting place to kill a few hours on a weeknight, start bringing their friends and before you know it, people would rather get a ticket package with the Nets than scour stubhub and scalpers for MSG tickets. I don’t know if the Nets will ever be able to import new “die-hards” just by playing in Brooklyn, but I think the casual audience is there for the taking, a concept the Nets ownership currently seems to embrace by doing things like offering reversible jerseys with other team’s players on them.

4. If the sale of the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is approved by the NBA, do you believe the Nets will have the financial resources and intrigue to compete with the Knicks for the 2010 crop of free agents?

Mike Kurylo: You only have to look at Cuban’s Mavs to answer this. Dallas was terrible prior to Cuban’s arrival. However I think it’s more important to have an owner that does the right things as opposed to throw a lot of money at a problem. The Knicks threw a lot of money at players during this decade, and it hasn’t gotten them anything.

Mark Ginocchio: Given everything that’s been said about Prokhorov in the past week, there’s no reason to expect him to become an NBA owner to be shy and conservative with the team he’s building. My guess is there will be moments when Nets fans wish he was less meddlesome, but the summer of 2010 will not be one of those times. While I think it’s foolish for both Knicks and Nets fans to expect LeBron or Dwayne Wade to change teams next year, Prokhorov, without a doubt, is going to spend and that’s going to frustrate a lot of Knicks fans who are buying into their current strategy of having as little on the books as possible for the end of this season.

5. Given the recent struggles of both teams, and the size of the NYC media market, do you think a legitimate Knicks/Nets rivalry is good for the sport?

Mike Kurylo: Absolutely. Any rivalry is good for sports, and especially one that would pit New York against itself. Although I think when two big cities are involved it becomes even more successful (New York/Boston would be bigger).

Mark Ginocchio: A real-life Knicks-Nets rivalry that lasted for years, is something I have wished for since I was a 13-year-old on Long Island tearing my hair out as the Knicks pushed the Rockets to 7 games while the Nets have a nice young nucleus of players that could never seem to get their act together. From a social perspective, I find inter-city rivalries to be the most fascinating because there are subtle nuances that draw people to specific teams that I think ultimately tell us a lot about those people, their backgrounds and all of that other great pyschobabble type stuff.