“I think the hate [for the Knicks] has grown a little. Everybody knows how much I disliked the Knicks when I was with the Celtics, but I think it’s grown to another level. I think it’s time for the Nets to start running this city.”
Ben KopelmanLet’s break this one down for a second.
A professional team’s swagger comes from two things: past performance and a fan base. A winning team with die-hard fans who know the sport and love the players soars high above the lowly bottom feeders who play in front of 8,000 people despite a promotional front-row-seats-and-two-hot-dogs-for-$10 ticket. A championship gives a team — players and fans alike — the right to be as cocky as it wants until a new king is crowned.
In the team’s inaugural season in town, the Nets went one-and-done, losing its first round playoff series to a Bulls team playing without three of their top four players last year — in front of their home crowd in a Game 7, no less. And the people in the stands that night were comprised of either (1) new NBA fans attending their first ever playoff series; (2) transplant fans of another city who moved to New York and adopted the new team in town; and (3) turncoat Knick fans.
Pause on that for a second before anointing the Nets ready to take over the Atlantic let alone New York City: the large majority of Nets fans are made up of people who are still learning about the sport, still learning about the city and those who are as loyal as my ex girlfriend (hint: she was not loyal).
An intimidating bunch, Paul.
I get that the Nets made a huge trade. I get that NBA pundits will pick them to finish ahead of the Knicks, win the Atlantic and host a playoff series. I get that some will even choose them to play the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are vastly improved and people see them being ultra-competitive with guys like KG and Pierce setting the tone. All fair, all fine, no beef.
But Pierce’s comments are so beyond premature, they are laughable. Nobody cares what you did in Boston. Nobody cares what you plan on doing in Brooklyn. Walking into New York and acting like you’ve been here your whole life is how tourists get mugged.
We saw how heated this Knicks-Nets rivalry got last year when our regular season meetings felt like playoff games. They were electric and a lot of fun to watch, let alone play in (I imagine). I’m excited for this grudge match to continue building.
But when the Knicks come to Brooklyn next year, and half the arena is rocking orange and blue, I hope Pierce looks up and realizes, regardless of the scoreboard or the standings, this will never be his town. And the team will never be the New York Nets.