Feb 23, 2011, 12:29 PM EDT
Mention a Knicks/Nets rivalry to a Knicks fan and they laugh a dismissive little laugh. There is no rivalry — the Knicks play in Manhattan and the Nets are still in Newark, the swamps of Jersey. Even when they come to Brooklyn, that’s not on the island. The Knicks dismiss the rivalry out of hand. It doesn’t exist.
The Nets think it’s a rivalry. Mikhail Prokhorov thinks it’s a rivalry and plans a full-scale invasion of the New York market.
And the Nets won round one.
The Nets deal for Deron Williams in Utah is a better one than what the Knicks just did for Carmelo Anthony. Certainly ‘Melo is the bigger name, the bigger name. But for my money Williams is the better player, the better guy to build around — especially if you are a running, pick-and-roll team like the Knicks. ‘Melo is a good fit, Williams would have been a great fit. But he’s a Net.
However, first Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov hung around the very public Knicks negotiations and drove up the price on his rival, forcing them to trade away most of their role players in the process.
All of this came after this summer, when the Nets put up a billboard featuring Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z, larger than life, right across the street from Madison Square Garden. The Knicks answered with their own Amar’e billboard next to the Nets under-construction new home in Brooklyn.
There is a lot of risk in this deal for the Nets. Deron Williams is reportedly stunned and not that happy about the deal (he embraced Utah like few players ever do). The Nets are going to have to sell him on their future and vision. He can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2012 and walk away, leaving the Nets with nothing. The rules don’t allow the Nets to start talking to Williams about an extension this summer — which means it will be under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Whatever that will look like. It means less money for Williams than ‘Melo got in his sign-and-trade.
But nothing attracts star free agents like other free agents. With Williams and a move to Brooklyn in a brand-new building, the Nets will have something that will at least attract the attention of other free agents. Throw in some quality other pieces such as Brook Lopez and the Nets have the core of something that could win a lot of games, that could be good.
Something that could rival the Knicks.
You know, if there were a rivalry there.