The Nets have played second fiddle to the Knicks in the tri-state area for quite some time now, and with their move to the Barclays Center last year, they are officially playing in the shadow of the Knicks. But they are trying to change that, hoping to unseat the Knicks as the team to beat in New York, and with their recent offseason splash, they have gotten the nod from at least one big NBA analyst.
"I'm going with the Nets right now, over the Knicks -- all day, every day," Shaquille O'Neal said Thursday. "[Jason] Kidd's a great guy, he's a great leader. I'm anxious to see when things get tough how the guys are going to respond.
"It's a dangerous lineup. I was thinking about it on the way over here."
When going down the line to name all of the Nets' starters, which included the recent additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, O'Neal shuttered at the end, emphasizing the amount of talent now on the roster.
O'Neal made an appearance at the Basketball City Thursday afternoon to celebrate the launch of the new Arizona Beverage drink line, Shaq Soda, an all-natural line of cream sodas. O'Neal also spoke to the Basketball City camp about his basketball experiences and answered questions from a crowd of campers. After he finished talking, he posed for pictures with the entire camp.
In addition to promoting his new soda line, O'Neal also helped announce the awarding of scholarships to 10 camps. As part of the new initiative, Arizona Beverages donated $5,000 -- enough money to help 10 underprivileged kids attend basketball camp at Basketball City -- in O'Neal's honor.
"It's special because in the real world we live in, not every one can afford the 500 dollar ticket -- let's just face it," O'Neal said. "It's just about being able to help kids stay out of trouble and make it."
O'Neal later touched on a variety of topics in the NBA, including Dwight Howard's recent signing with the Houston Rockets. O'Neal maintained that the move to Houston, opposed to re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, was best for Howard because of the extraordinary amount of pressure he faced with the Lakers.
"For him, it's safer, a little less pressure," O'Neal said. "I don't know about it being a better team, but there's less pressure. I said something last year about him turning it around, and I said, 'In order for him to get the proper respect, he's going to have to get two [championships] because Bynum and Gasol got two.'
"Now that he's not there, there's not as much pressure. It's a safe move for him to go to a smaller town."