The Knicks vs the Nets has been a rivalry ever since the Nets were introduced into the NBA in 1976, when the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association.
Both team’s have tried to own the New York market, but the Knicks have owned the City since the side was founded in 1946.
But the Nets have closed the gap in recent years, particularly with their move into Brooklyn, projecting them into the spotlight more.
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The Nets arrived in the NBA in 1976, and there was immediately a sour feeling between the two, as they were penalized by the NBA for ‘invading the Knicks’ New York City territory’. They were forced to pay almost $5m to the Knicks, which they were unable to do without selling Julius Erving, one of the best players in the world, to the Philadelphia 76ers.
To appease the league, the Nets moved to New Jersey in 1977, after which both teams had periods of success, but at different times, although the Knicks remained the more popular team throughout. In the two first round playoff matchups between the two sides in 1983 and 1994 the Knicks were comfortable victors on both occasions, asserting their New York dominance.
Neither team has won an NBA title since the Nets were introduced into the league, the last of the Knicks two titles coming in 1973, although the Knicks made an unlikely finals appearance in 1999.
New Jersey’s first real breakthrough in the market came in 2001 when they arranged a trade with the Phoenix Suns, which meant they acquired point guard Jason Kidd. Kidd led the Nets to two consecutive Eastern Conference championships in his first two years at the franchise, but they were defeated in the NBA Finals in both 2002 and 2003.
The two sides then met in the 2004 post-season, where the Nets swept the Knicks 4-0, in a heated series, which saw Tim Thomas of the Knicks almost challenge Nets players to a fight.
Since then there has not been a playoff series between the two franchises, however, the dynamic of the rivalry was transformed after the Nets relocated to Brooklyn in 2012.
Brooklyn start to fight back
The balance of power in New York finally begun to shift when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought a majority stake in the Nets in 2010 and made it his mission to change the fortunes of the side immediately.
The side traded for high-profile point guard Deron Williams during the 2010-11 season, in the hope of enticing him to stay ahead of their move to Brooklyn in 2012. But the side enjoyed little success after suffering a barrage of injuries during this time, but, thanks to the addition of Joe Johnson from Atlanta, Williams re-signed with the team.
After their first season in Brooklyn the Nets pulled off a huge coup by trading for perennial all-stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics.
Due to this trade Brooklyn entered the season with huge expectations and, after a slow start, quickly got going and made the playoffs for the first of two successive years, losing in the first round on both occasions.
However, Pierce and Garnett’s age had caught up with them and they, along with Williams had left Brooklyn ahead of the current season.
Meanwhile, the Knicks suffered many fruitless seasons following the 2004 playoff meeting with the Nets, before finally returning to the post-season in the 2010-11 season after acquiring superstar Carmelo Anthony from Denver.
Their run of three successive playoff seasons ended in the 2013-14 season, when finished in ninth position in the Eastern conference, and could only watch as Brooklyn made the second round. This was followed by the worst season in New York Knicks history last year, as the side finished with a 17-65 regular season record.
Where are we now?
But, once again, New York appear to already be back ahead of the Nets, after the short period of Brooklyn dominance.
They began their rebuild by drafting seven-foot-three-inch Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis ahead of this season, who has been a revelation, while Brooklyn have struggled without key players and have no draft picks for this upcoming draft.
Brooklyn must now begin their own rebuilding process and look ahead to the next few years under newly appointed GM Sean Marks.
Marks is aware it will be difficult for the Nets to compete alongside the Knicks in the next few years unless they can pull off major free agent signings, but Prokhorov has already shown he is ready to spend, and he may have to once again.