GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks and Nets are more of a sibling rivalry with the Lopez twins manning the middle for each team than a real rough-and-tumble basketball rivalry. But rookie Kristaps Porzingis did his best to fuel something in this dormant matchup.
“I know our fans are better than Brooklyn’s fans,” Porzingis said.
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The Knicks-Nets game tonight will be at the Garden so Porzingis, who Thursday was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November, may receive an even louder ovation than he’s been getting.
Then again, if the game was in Barclays Center, there might be far more cheers for Porzingis than boos.
The Knicks have more fans and followers than the Nets in New York and throughout the world. Porzingis, who is from Latvia and played professionally in Spain, said the Nets are not popular where he’s been — particularly not the Brooklyn version.
“Everybody knows Knicks but not really the Nets,” Porzingis said. “I remember more of the New Jersey Nets than the Brooklyn Nets growing up. But yeah, it’s Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, those kind of teams.”
When Porzingis talked about the fans, he was just having fun at their expense, which is something he has been doing since coming to New York.
“Sometimes I see [fans] with a Brooklyn hat on,” Porzingis said. “I say, ‘What is that? You need a Knicks hat.’ I joke around with them. Sometimes I see them. Not as many as Knicks fans, though.”
The Knicks (9-10) are better now, but the Nets (5-13) have been the superior team over the past 15 years. Since 2001, they’ve won more playoff series (10-1), and are 33-22 against the Knicks. But the rivalry never materialized.
“We didn’t win a game against them last year so we’re not really a rival,” said Derek Fisher, whose team can climb back to .500 with a victory.
Fisher added the “most intriguing matchup” and “most interesting part” of this game will be Robin Lopez against his twin brother Brook.
This will be the first time they face off since Robin signed with the Knicks over the summer. They have met nine times before with Brook dominating statistically. But something else stands out to Robin.
“I just know that I’m winning,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
Robin’s teams — Phoenix, New Orleans and Portland — are 5-4, against Brook and the Nets. Brook is averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds and Robin 10.7 and 5.0 against his brother.
The two went to Stanford and have different interests than most NBA players. They enjoy comic books, superheroes, Star Wars and Walt Disney, and taking shots at each other.
The brothers don’t talk leading up to their games, according to Robin: “Not at all. Nothing from him, I think he’s nervous.” They don’t talk during games either. “I don’t know if it’s because he’s got nothing to say or what,” Robin said.
Robin also takes credit when Brook plays well: “I taught him a lot of lessons, let’s put it that way.”
But Robin has noticed that Brook and the Nets are playing better lately.
“I’ve watched him a little bit,” he said. “He’s doing an OK job, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun game.”