Having two teams in the Mecca of Basketball was fun to watch last season, but now that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are members of the Brooklyn Nets, their matchup with the New York Knicks is set to turn into a genuine rivalry.
There was an intense atmosphere at MSG and the Barclays Center for all four of the games the two teams played in 2012-13, but the rivalry still felt somewhat manufactured. There was no real history between the two franchises, and the players themselves weren't particularly big enemies.
After the Nets' huge trade with the Boston Celtics, however, that's all about to change. Brooklyn now has two members of the franchise New York had a genuine rivalry with, adding a personal element to every game.
We all remember KG's bout with Carmelo Anthony in January—culminating with 'Melo confronting Garnett in front of the Boston Celtics' team bus—and we're now about to see that affair continue to develop in New York.
Knicks fans will also remember all the times Pierce has broken their hearts with a late dagger in the fourth quarter. Even if those shots were all made with him wearing Celtics green, it's inevitable that those feelings are going to come up when a Nets-Knicks game goes down to the wire.
Even beyond KG and Pierce, we have the arrival of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in Brooklyn, who each have their own history with the Knicks.
Kidd was a major part of New York's fantastic 2012-13 season, but he ran out of gas in the playoffs before retiring and taking over the Nets' vacant head-coaching job.
In the playoffs, we also saw J.R. Smith strike an elbow to the head of Terry, which completely changed the first-round series between the Knicks and Celtics and will likely still mean something to the two players in question.
Most importantly, though, this rivalry is now meaningful on a larger scale. It's not just a case of two teams being in the same city, with players not liking each other. It's about two contenders going head to head for the division title, when every matchup has the potential to make or break either team's season down the line.
The Nets were defeated by a depleted Chicago Bulls team in the first round last year, but with the addition of two Hall of Famers, they are now a playoff-ready team and must be considered a genuine contender in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Knicks too were disappointed by their second-round loss to the Indiana Pacers, but at times during the season—when they were healthy—they looked like a serious threat to the conference title.
On the whole, the Eastern Conference is now stacked at the top, with five teams who'll all be competing for the title.
And in the middle of it all will be two teams in New York City that now have a genuine rivalry with the potential to be the most exciting matchup in the NBA. What two other teams in the league can boast proximity, competitiveness and an intense dislike for each other like these two can?
NBA fans—especially those based in New York—are in for a treat next season. KG and Pierce are going to turn this rivalry into something special, and we get to see it play out four times a year and possibly in the postseason.
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