According to Webster's Dictionary a rivalry is a competitive or antagonistic state or condition. That's an apt description of how the NBA's Atlantic Division will be this season. Boston is top dog in the division and will wear the biggest bull's eye once again.
But which rivalry will be the biggest, the meanest and the most fun in the ultra competitive Atlantic? I'll give you a hint, the teams are based in the Big Apple. The Knicks and Nets are poised to wage fierce battles for years to come. All of the key components are in place.
First, and most importantly, both teams will be pretty good and should make the playoffs. The Lakers and Clippers shared Los Angeles for years and no one paid much attention because the Clippers couldn't get out of their own way. Insert Chris Paul and a dash of Lob City. All of a sudden things get a little chippy. Okay, things attempt to get a little petty and fail miserably, and in one season it's a budding rivalry.
When both teams place a good product on the court at the same time over a prolonged period of time that's what allows rivalries to grow, develop and make reputations for themselves that are unique to that rivalry and that rivalry alone. Imagine if New York and Brooklyn are seeded fourth and fifth (or vice versa, to be fair) and meet up in the first round of this year's playoffs. That series will be an absolute war.
Secondly, the Nets are officially moving into New York City. Nets fans no longer have to make their way out to the Meadowlands. They will now call the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn home. The timing is perfect as they endeavor to compete with the Knicks on and off the court and throughout the city.
The town is big enough for the both of them. It will be fun to see how divided it will really become now.
Third, at least one owner needs to be very outspoken on matters concerning the rivalry. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has already shown that he's more than willing to do this. At 6'8" a lot of men are going to appear little to Prokhorov, at 5'6" Knicks owner, James Dolan fits the description perfectly.
The linked statement, referring to Dolan as a "that little man" was funny and true at the same time and it's one of Mikhail's ways of telling New York, Dolan and the Knicks that the Nets are going to have to be reckoned with whether anyone likes it or not.
This is perfect owner bravado for the situation. Imagine if an additional NBA or NFL team were about to start its inaugural season in Dallas. How much smack would Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban be talking? The battle for city supremacy on and off the court or field would be constant, as it will be in New York.
There's only one component that the Nets are missing in this rivalry mix. They need a big time celebrity. Jay-Z is top notch, you can't get any better than that. But he's a part owner. I'm talking about a famous Nets fan who's court side for all 41 home games a la Spike Lee and Jack Nicholson. It will come with time.
The Knicks and Nets rivalry is ready to take off. They have squared off three times in the playoffs with the Knicks winning two of the series but the Nets have been to The Finals more recently. I'm looking forward to their next playoff matchup.
A motivated Raymond Felton versus Deron Williams, or Carmelo against Joe Johnson sounds pretty good. The world will be watching.