MIAMI - Even though Heat forward Shane Battier joked that Madison Square Garden "smells like elephant poop and Frank Sinatra,'' he's clearly fond of playing in New York City.
"There is so much history when you walk in,'' Battier said Sunday. "It's an event.''
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Whether basketball at the Garden can become a championship-level event again is another question, but Battier said the Knicks' new president, Phil Jackson, won't accomplish a turnaround on reputation alone.
"Will players want to go there just because Phil is running the show? No,'' Battier said. "But if he creates a winning environment and they are contenders every year, he will get the best of the best [free agents].''
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who said he doesn't know Jackson, doesn't see an exact correlation between Jackson's move from coaching to the front office and what Heat executive Pat Riley has done in his career.
"Pat came here to coach and run a franchise,'' Spoelstra said. "He really built it from scratch from both seats. It was very unique. And that culture lives to this day.''
The Heat has made three straight NBA Finals, has won two straight NBA titles and leads the Eastern Conference this season.
Miami's power was evident in Sunday's 102-91 win over the Knicks. It was best exemplified with 1:30 left in the first quarter when Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. tried to wrap up LeBron James to keep him from scoring on a breakaway.
James, a 6-8, 250-pounder, scored anyway, overpowering the 6-6, 205-pound Hardaway. Before completing the three-point play, James flexed his massive right biceps -- and that said it right there.
The Heat, which took the season series from the Knicks 3-1, is too strong for them right now.
The Heat-Knicks rivalry, which once was so intense that a fistfight seemed possible or even probable every time they played, seems tame by comparison. The Heat's Chris Bosh, however, said things could intensify quickly.
"If we play them in the playoffs, it will revive,'' he said. "There are a lot of people from New York in Miami, and you can always hear them. People on the streets are always messing with me as if we hadn't won a championship the past two years.
"But it's OK. All it takes is something to breathe new life into [the rivalry].''
Might Jackson's presence -- and, ultimately, his player personnel moves -- be what stokes that fire?
Battier thinks so.
"Phil obviously has the knowledge of the game,'' Battier said. "He has experience from the first seat. It remains to be seen if that can translate to a front-office job.
"I think he'll do it. I think he will do a great job. And it would be good for the league if the Knicks can storm back and be one of the elite franchises.''