Ex-Nets Coach Avery Johnson: 'It's Very Important to Beat the Knicks'

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIJanuary 20, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 4:  Avery Johnson of the New Jersey Nets talks to Deron Williams #8 during the game against the New York Knicks on February 4, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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With the Brooklyn Nets (16-22) and New York Knicks (15-25) set to play their second matchup of the 2013-14 season on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, former Nets head coach Avery Johnson said "it's very important" for Brooklyn to come out victorious in the rivalry.

In an interview with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the ESPN analyst said the following of the marquee matchup (Bondy's question is in bold):

As somebody who was recently in this organization, top-to-bottom, how important is it to be better than the Knicks? Like I said when I was coaching there, I think the bigger goal was to win a championship. But now that I’m in the media, I can say that it’s very important to beat the Knicks and dominate that local audience and win the hearts of the local fans there and the fanbase. And I know from the Nets’ standpoint, it was always a big deal to try to win over some of the Knicks fans and bring them over to Brooklyn.

It's safe to say that hardcore Knicks fans, like director Spike Lee, will support their team through thick and thin. Nevertheless, I suppose there's a chance the Nets could target some bandwagoners by winning the head-to-head matchup.

Johnson certainly has experience with the rivalry from his coaching days.

Prior to getting fired after a 14-14 start in 2012-13, his Nets squad went 1-2 against the Knicks. The year before, in 2011-12, the Nets also finished 1-2 against New York under Johnson.

Needless to say, he didn't have much success in those head-to-head matchups.

You may recall, however, that the first duel between these two squads in 2013-14 ended in disaster for Brooklyn. On Dec. 5, the Nets were blown out by 30 points on their home court, 113-83.

Without Paul Pierce and Deron Williams due to a fractured right hand and a sprained left ankle, respectively, Brooklyn couldn't get anything going. Brook Lopez led the way with 24 points and nine rebounds, but he finished with a plus/minus ratio of minus-23.

The Knicks, meanwhile, had six different players score in double digits during the blowout win.

Brooklyn will be without Lopez, but D-Will will reportedly be back for Monday's matchup after missing five games due to an ankle injury, per Andrew Keh of the New York Times.

The rivalry between these two teams hasn't been all that compelling this year, as they have a combined record of 31-47. With that said, both teams are trying to fight for playoff contention, so perhaps the NBA community will get to see some competitive basketball.