Nets-Knicks enters new era

Deron Williams #8 of the Nets drives against

Deron Williams #8 of the Nets drives against Ronnie Brewer #11 of the Knicks. (Getty) (Credit: Deron Williams #8 of the Nets drives against Ronnie Brewer #11 of the Knicks. (Getty))

The Nets and Knicks have met 177 times.

But meeting No. 178 might as well be the first, because Brooklyn and New York have never squared off on the hardcourt.

Not until Monday night at 7, when the Knicks hit the herringbone court at the Barclays Center. The game was originally set to be the regular season debut for the Brooklyn Nets, but Superstorm Sandy postponed the matchup.

Until now, even as longtime division and area rivals, Knicks-Nets games have lacked the appeal of other metropolitan sports rivalries.

"I don't know if it was really a genuine rivalry," said TNT announcer Marv Albert, a native of Manhattan Beach, in a phone interview prior to the start of the season. "Both teams need to be good at the same time."

And they rarely were. In the 36 previous seasons the Nets and the Knicks played in the NBA, both teams only achieved winning records in the same year five times. Just one season, 1983-84, featured both teams winning a postseason series in the same year.

With the Knicks finally emerging from the darkness of the Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas years, combined with the Nets' newfound committment to winning thanks to owner Mikhail Prokhorov, high-level hoops might become the norm when these two franchises clash four times a year.

"It could be eventually like Dodgers-Giants-Yankees and Rangers-Islanders, because both teams were good at the same time," Albert said of the Nets-Knicks rivalry in this new era.

The Knicks enter tonight's matchup at 9-3. Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony leads the team with 25.6 points per game, while making 47% of his shots. A veteran supporting cast featuring Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd has helped the team run out to the one of the best starts in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn, at 8-4 (6-1 at home), isn't far behind. Deron Williams has played well to start the year (16.8 ppg, 8.5 apg), but the play of Brook Lopez has been the real surprise. His team-leading 19 ppg make up for offseason acquisition Joe Johnson's (15.8 ppg) slow start.


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