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Gangs of New York: The Beginning of the Borough War?

Gangs of New York: The Knicks vs. the NetsAfter the weeks and months of updates, rumors, speculation and editorializing, the Knicks’ long-awaited trade for Carmelo Anthony (which prompted many a commentator to exclaim, “Our long national nightmare is finally over”) lasted 40 hours (if that) before arguably being eclipsed as the most impactful move last week by an NY-area NBA franchise. The Nets’ trade for Deron Williams gives them their first franchise-level player since they traded for Jason Kidd 10 years ago (no, Vince Carter doesn’t count). It also gives them arguably a better overall player than Anthony (not as prolific a scorer, but a more efficient one, a significantly better passer and at least as good a defender), and one with perhaps more upside (while they both turn 27 this year, Williams is in his 6th season while Anthony is in his 8th, which suggests that Williams has more of his prime ahead of him than Anthony does).

The Deron Williams trade does one more thing which could reverberate through NY-area basketball fandom for a long, long time to come; it squarely sets the stage for a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry between the two team, especially with the New Jersey Nets scheduled to move to their new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

In the end, the Knicks were able to win the first fight for Melo due strictly to their team’s brand and city appeal. The Williams trade though, announced to the basketball world, and to the Knicks in particular, that the Nets are indeed a player for big-name stars. This also sets the stage for some interesting dealings in the summer of 2012, by which time the Nets and their part-owner Jay-Z will call the Barclays Center home.

It is in that summer that Williams, along with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard,
Nets vs. Knicks will be eligible for free agency. Williams has a $17.8 million option for the 2012-13 season, and by all accounts the next collective bargaining agreement will, among other things, (1) limit the ability of teams to pay for other teams’ free agents and thus (2) make it easier for teams to re-sign their own. If nothing else, the odds are high that Williams will exercise the option. If, however, he doesn’t like the way the team’s direction is going at that point, then Williams could put himself in the open market, and the Knicks are certain to be one of the teams most highly interested in his services – would they dare steal from their neighbor in Brooklyn? More rumored to happen is the pursuit of CP3, which raises the possibility of the two premier point guards in the NBA both calling NY home (with apologies to Derrick Rose).

Imagine the buzz that Knicks-Nets games would generate if that happened. Of course, the Knicks could choose to focus their attention that summer on Howard – and so very well could the Nets. You may scoff at the Nets’ chances to signing Howard, but if they make more moves to add another star, either that summer or beforehand, while still retaining sufficient space under the salary cap – well, never say never (ok, “never”). In the end, the battles already waged, and still to be fought, between the ownership and front offices of the two teams are merely part of the ongoing battle for wins and for fans. On the latter count, the Knicks are generally thought to have an untouchable stranglehold on the allegiances of NY-area basketball fans. This will almost certainly be case in the Nets’  soon-to-be-former home of New Jersey, and may very well be so in Manhattan no matter what. But if the New Jersey Nets can develop an entertaining and successful team in their new stadium in Brooklyn, then one would have to think that fan allegiances there and in Queens (not to mention the rest of Long Island) could be in play.

Furthermore, if the Knicks do the unthinkable and bring back Isiah as GM this summer, it may be the last straw for enough Knicks fans to put the NY area as a whole in play. Even though the Nets don’t begin play in Brooklyn until the fall of 2012, the NY basketball borough war may have already begun.

Related posts:

  1. Donnie Walsh, James Dolan, and the Remaking of the New York Knicks
  2. Can Carmelo Anthony Push the Knicks Over the Top?

Discussion

4 Responses to “Gangs of New York: The Beginning of the Borough War?”

  1. To all the readers out there, a big “whoops” on my part. I should have referred to Paul and Williams as “arguably” the two premier point guards in the league, as Rose, Rondo and perhaps Nash (even after all these years) have an argument on this. My bad.

    Posted by E-Dog | March 1, 2011, 3:56 pm
  2. The main difference in the two trades is that Anthony has clearly stated he wants to play in New York. Williams has said nothing about picking up his option and signing with NJ/Brooklyn or the future.

    I agree with your point that the Knicks have a stranglehold on the NYC fan base. The franchise has been a part of the city’s sports fabric for more than 60 years. I don’t see that changing very quickly, if at all.

    Anthony is one of the best scorers in the league and is only 26 years old. He and Amar’e, as long as he stays healthy, should have long careers in NY, and as a 1-2 are absolutely good enough to win a title. Throw in Chauncey Billups, who is playing extremely well right now and has just about as much playoff experience as any PG in the NBA, and they will be very dangerous this year in the playoffs. I still think they are missing the necessary role players to win a title this year, but as a Celtics fan I won’t be rooting for a first round match-up.

    Point being, the Knicks just became majorly relevant in the East again, while the Nets have a long way to go. Much of their future, including where they will play and whether Williams will still be on the team come 2012, is still uncertain. This deal could prove to be a major step in building their future, or they could have just made a huge mistake in trading away a very good potential franchise power forward in Favors, as well as a cheaper, all-star caliber point guard in Harris.

    Mikhail Prokhorov is as big an entrepreneur as there is in the NBA owners community, and after losing out on Carmelo (though they never really had a chance), I’m not sure if this wasn’t just Prokhorov trying to gain his team another huge star to lure in fans and shake some of the embarrassment. I can’t blame him, I’m just not sure it was the right move. Only time will tell.

    Either way, by landing Carmelo (as long as he signs an extension) the Knicks and Celtics, not the Nets, will become much bigger rivals for the next few years.

    Posted by Green in LA | March 2, 2011, 5:48 pm
  3. Green in LA, you make a lot of good points. By no means am I saying that the Nets back in contention yet. But they do now have a cornerstone piece (assuming that they can get him to stay, which as you rightly mention is a big if), which they didn’t have before. Favors is a project (Avery Johnson flat-out said a while back that Favors isn’t ready this year and won’t be next year either) and Harris has declined the last two seasons and was probably in need of a change of scenery. Williams, in my view, oFfers a more stable foundation (again, if they can get him to stay).

    The other thing I’m saying is that the combination of a true star plus the impending move to Brooklyn puts the Nets in a position to maybe, just maybe, make inroads in “Knicks territory”. They have to build further, of course, and get a little (or perhaps a lot) lucky, but they’ve put themselves in a position to at least have a chance to be known as something other than “those losers in Jersey”.

    Posted by E-Dog | March 3, 2011, 4:30 pm
  4. Howard will not sign with a cold weather team. He just won’t. I believe that he will wind up in LA(for Bynum,Odom and draft considerations). Then he,Gasol and Kobe will win two to three more rings.

    Posted by Rick Gaston | March 30, 2011, 9:16 pm

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