Brooklyn Nets Will Steal New York Spotlight from Knicks

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

Brooklyn Nets Will Steal New York Spotlight from Knicks

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    Everyone dismissed the notion of the Brooklyn Nets ever replacing the New York Knicks as the Big Apple’s top dog, but this offseason has paved the way for the Nets to shed the little brother label.

    Even when the Nets found new, exciting ownership in billionaire Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov—who moved the team from the New Jersey swamps to a promising arena in Brooklyn—nobody thought New York’s new franchise would ever hold a candle to the Knicks. The beloved Knicks always figured to be the toast of the city while the Nets look like a little child desperately seeking attention.

    After an extremely busy free agency period for both squads, the Nets look poised to put a better product on the court this season that will win fans over.

    As owner James Dolan infuriated his fan base by letting Jeremy Lin sign with the Houston Rockets, the Nets surprisingly held on to their point guard. The Nets avoided a potential disaster by maintaining Deron Williams, all while building a potent supporting cast besides the superstar.

    Here is why the Nets will poach some Knicks fans in the near future and challenge the Knicks for New York’s throne.

Brooklyn Has the Better Superstar

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    Carmelo Anthony is a fantastic scorer—one of the best in the game. Deron Williams is a fantastic basketball player who can lead the right group of players to a championship.

    Especially now that LeBron James captured a title, bashing Anthony is going to be all the rage. Unlike the criticism of James, most of the animosity toward Anthony will actually make sense.

    When everything is going right, watching Anthony induces incredible excitement. He can take over a game on offense and does not shrink in crucial moments. He played inspiring basketball in the playoffs against the Miami Heat—averaging 27.8 points per game while showing a heightened tenacity on the defensive end—that suggested some promise going forward.

    But throughout his 10-year career, Anthony has piled up points while struggling on defense and failing to spread the ball to his teammates. Unless Anthony matures for longer than a five-game stretch, he will never be the superstar that carries his team to a title.

    Deron Williams, on the other hand, is a complete player who will benefit from the Nets assembling a deep roster around him. With little talent to aid him, Williams shot 40.7 percent from the court and only averaged 8.7 assists per game (yeah, that’s actually low for him) alongside a depleted roster.

    Joe Johnson’s arrival allows Williams to return to distributing the ball as a pass-first point guard who is no longer the team’s first scoring option. Before arriving to the Nets, Williams averaged 10.5 assists per game or more during three separate seasons. Look for him to approach that number again throughout the next few years.

    Make no mistake about it: Deron Williams is New York’s premier basketball player.

No More Jeremy Lin

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    Don’t underestimate the power of Linsanity. To say that some Knicks fans are furious over losing Lin is a colossal understatement.

    When the Knicks were down in the dumps and on the verge of a collapse, Lin—an undrafted point guard from Harvard—saved the day by leading the Knicks to a seven-game winning streak. In a truly Lin-spiring story, the previously unknown Lin averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists in 25 games as a starter and delivered a major boost to a team in desperate need of strong point-guard play.

    Signing a talented 23-year-old whose hot streak jolted the team and the city seemed like a slam dunk, but this is the Knicks. Instead of retaining the man adored by the fans and media, the Knicks brought back Raymond Felton and allowed Lin to go to Houston.

    Whether the decision was the right or wrong move for the team to make, there is no arguing that it ticked off many fans who lost their lovable underdog—the one guy on the team everyone loved to cheer for.

    Upsetting everyone right as another team moves into the same state is not a good idea. Grantland recently addressed this issue in great detail, but would it be crazy to think that some fed-up Knicks fans will decide this is the final straw and switch their allegiances to the Nets?

    Some die-hard fans will never quit on their team, but casual New York fans who enjoyed Linsanity might see this as the perfect time to abandon the dysfunctional Knicks.

Nets Are New and Excititng

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    With a new logo, different team colors, a fresh arena and upgraded roster, the Nets are embarking on a clean slate.

    By improving its depth chart just in time for its big move, everything panned out perfectly for Brooklyn. The Nets can finally put behind years of ineptitude following the post-Jason Kidd era.

    An offseason jam-packed with signings transformed the Nets from a lottery team to a playoff contender. After keeping all their main pieces, the Nets now boast a starting lineup of Williams, Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. Throw in point guard C.J Watson, rebounding fiend Reggie Evans and young scorer MarShon Brooks to give them a deep, balanced roster.

    We tend to display short attention spans nowadays and gravitate to whatever grabs our interest that week. Anthony’s arrival created jubilation among Knicks fans who grew bored of him by the end of the season. Linsanity would have probably faded eventually, but they could have squeezed some more life out of it to solidify their position on the New York tabloids’ back pages.

    Some casual sport fans are just little kids waiting for the next toy to play with, and some are actually little kids who have not developed a close emotional attachment to either club yet.

    Maybe the Knicks and Nets can both learn to co-exist, but cliche westerns tell us that this town isn't big enough for the both of them. The Nets are the younger, more exciting new team on the block.

Knicks Are Old

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    How many current members of the Knicks will still don orange and blue in three years?

    Anthony and Iman Shumpert—unless they do something stupid like trade him for the rights to a 38-year-old point guard—might be the only ones.

    The Knicks shipped out all their young talent and replaced them with grizzled veterans looking to make one last run at a title. Shumpert, their lone young talent still standing, is only there because the Los Angeles Lakers got Steve Nash instead. Unless the Knicks somehow top a superior Heat squad, their plan will look awfully foolish in the future.

    In addition to not signing Lin, the Knicks allowed Landry Fields to depart to the Toronto Raptors and traded Josh Harrellson and Toney Douglas for 38-year-old Marcus Camby.

    Okay, so Toronto overpayed for Fields, who completely lost his shooting touch last season, Douglas was relegated to the bench after regressing and Harrellson is likely nothing more than a solid reserve. At least they’re young players who offer a glimpse of possible better things to come. Those guys at least offer hope for improvement. 

    The Knicks took away all the excitement from fans who relish watching young talent blossom into valuable contributors. This may not be a worse team, but it’s a team with less of an identity.

    Amar’e Stoudemire, who possesses a bloated contract and banged up knees, is the longest tenured Knick with two years under his belt.

    While Felton, Camby and Kurt Thomas all used to play for New York, fans know that none of them reasonably have more than one or two decent seasons left.

    Unfortunately, acquiring the same guys from 1999 won’t ensure another trip to the NBA Finals.

    The Knicks are going for it all with no backup plan. In a few years, they might look more lost than the horrific squads run by Isiah Thomas.

Conclusion: A New Empire State of Mind

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    It may sound far-fetched, but the Knicks are on the verge of becoming New York's No. 2 team.

    If the veteran-laden squad meshes well and emerges as a legit threat in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks will certainly secure their position as the Big Apple's main attraction. But while a playoff appearance is a step up for the Nets that will create a stir and rejuvenate a weary fan base, anything short of a title will anger Knicks supporters.

    So when the Knicks and Nets compete for one of the East's top seeds below Miami, their seasons will still feel like two completely different tales of teams headed in opposite directions.

    Some people believe that loyalty to the Knicks will reign supreme and the city's love for their original squad will never fade. They are forgetting that New York fans are impatient and growing tired of underwhelming finishes from the Knicks. Even the Yankees played second fiddle to the Mets during the 1980s.

    After a tremendous offseason for Brooklyn and a baffling one for New York, the Nets are on the verge of doing the unthinkable. 

    The lowly Nets are about to topple the almighty Knicks in a grand New York takeover.