Ranking the NBA's Hottest Rivalries Heading into 2013-14 Season
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Rivalries have been a lost art in the NBA recently. We really haven't seen the kind of blood-boiling matchups the New York Knicks and Miami Heat had during the '90s or the battles the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings were embroiled in 10 years ago.
Fortunately, things are starting to look up in that regard, particularly within the Eastern Conference.
It all started when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010. Immediately, a rivalry between the Heat and Boston Celtics ensued. Then the Chicago Bulls got thrown into the fray. And then the Knicks. And then the Indiana Pacers.
Soon enough, the Nets moved to Brooklyn, and that obviously rubbed the Knicks the wrong way. Now, the Nets are making splashes left and right, irritating the original New York team even further.
It's beginning to get testy, and the 2013-14 season hasn't even begun yet.
This could be the start of a new era in NBA rivalries.
5. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Many want to see Dwight Howard's return to Los Angeles and some want to see the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder go at it again, but we are all overlooking one rivalry that has really started to take shape out West: the Los Angeles Clippers versus the Memphis Grizzlies.
Having met in the playoffs the past two years, these two teams are not exactly fond of one another. The center of the contention lies in the paint, as Zach Randolph clearly has a strong amount of disdain for Blake Griffin. Those two have engaged in countless wrestling matches down low over the past two seasons, and Randolph had some choice words for Griffin and the Clippers bench after being ejected during the Grizzlies' series-clinching Game 6 win back in May.
There is a solid chance these two ballclubs could meet in the playoffs again in 2014, and considering they have split their two postseason battles thus far, wouldn't that be appropriate?
4. Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat
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This one is basically built-in.
It's no secret that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (and Jason Terry too, for that matter) have gone to war against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company countless times. One side of that rivalry has now merely shifted from Boston to Brooklyn.
Make no mistake about it. Pierce can say whatever he wants about the Nets asserting their dominance in New York, but he, KG and Terry are not aiming for the Knicks; they are absolutely gunning for the Heat.
With a talented cast of characters around the two future Hall of Famers and Terry, Brooklyn is certainly a threat to Miami's throne in the East, and we'll get to see a potential playoff preview fairly quickly: The Nets' home opener is against the Heat.
The Celtics' run may be over, but the rivalry between the key players involved is still alive. Very alive.
3. Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
The Bulls and the Heat hate each other. No, seriously, they do.
This isn't like all of those Celtics/Heat battles where the two teams disliked one another but still clearly respected their opponent. This is pure hatred. The detestation is so severe that the starting fives did not even shake hands before tipoffs during their 2013 playoff series.
During the 2012-13 season, we really didn't get to experience this rivalry to the fullest because of Derrick Rose's absence. Now, Rose is back, meaning things could get more heated than ever (no pun intended).
Fortunately, we will get a taste right off the bat, as Miami and Chicago will open up the season at AmericanAirlines Arena.
This should be good.
2. Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks
This matchup could end up taking the top spot by the end of the season.
The Knicks have always been the toast of New York. With the Nets spending most of their existence in New Jersey, there was never any competition for the Knicks in their home state.
Now, though, the Nets are in Brooklyn, and they have made waves throughout the Big Apple.
After a solid debut season at the Barclays Center in 2012-13, the Nets went out and landed Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry in a trade with the Celtics. Then, to put the cherry on top, they signed Andrei Kirilenko and a couple of other bench players to fill out their stacked roster.
Not to be outdone, the Knicks swung a deal for Andrea Bargnani and picked up Metta World Peace.
There has already been plenty of trash-talking between the two sides, so much so that, per Fred Kerber of the New York Post, the NBA actually called for both teams to meet to discuss taking things down a notch.
It's going to be an awesome year within the Atlantic Division.
1. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
This had to be No. 1
These two teams engaged in a hard-fought, physical, seven-game battle during the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, and you kind of get the feeling that they don't like each other very much, either. It's not a Bulls/Heat level of hatred, but there is still a healthy proportion of dislike between the two ballclubs, and why shouldn't there be?
Indiana and Miami have faced off during the past two postseasons, and both series were rather hotly contested. The Pacers had a 2-1 lead over the Heat in 2012 only to see Dwyane Wade resurface from the dead and lead Miami to three straight wins, and in 2013, the two squads traded victories throughout the series right through the Heat's win in Game 7.
Indy has beefed up its roster with additions like Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson to finally try to one-up Miami. Will the Pacers get their chance for revenge in the 2014 playoffs?