Brian ErniThere have been better times at Madison Square Garden.
Whether it’s buzzer beater losses or their point guard being arrested on weapons charges, the Knicks’ season in melting down faster than…well, a typical Knicks season. And in an ever-evolving New York landscape — one the Nets vowed to overtake once they moved to their current borough — Brooklyn stands to capture the city’s imagination with a second half spark and a deep run into the playoffs.
Once upon a time, the Nets’ season looked like it would go the same way their Manhattan counterparts’ has. But, just like last year, an early January win over the Thunder sparked a tear, en route to a 17-7 record in the 2014 calendar year and, despite an overall record that’s still sub-.500, the sixth seed in the East. With as high as third in the conference in striking distance, there’s still a chance the Nets could be playing basketball in May or, dare I say it, even June. If that happens, the mass exodus over the bridge may be on.
Of course, we can debate the merits of winning hearts and minds of the casual New York sports fan. It certainly has worked out nicely for the Yankees, five championships and a few decades of dominance later, but even that shift from a “Mets town” to a “Yankees town” didn’t happen overnight. That doesn’t mean the Nets can’t chip away, and Brooklyn would probably take that. The trickling out started last year, when the re-brand made the Nets’ black-and-white look among the top sellers in the league, but it was slowed by the Knicks best season since 1998-99, a they reaffirmed not just their base, but stayed en vogue as the center of the New York basketball world. This year, that could start to change.
“With the Knicks struggling, I can see the Nets gaining momentum,” TheKnicksBlog’s lead writer Harris Decker told SNY Nets. “But as is the case with many of the New York teams, this will always be a Knicks town. If only for geographic reasons, the Knicks are New York’s team and, despite their faults and the Nets gains, a winning season is all it will take the Knicks to swing the pendulum back to Madison Square Garden.”
He very well may be right, but there’s little room for error now. For the casual fan, Brooklyn has a draw. Brett Yormark and company are determined to make the Barclays Center not just the entertainment center of the city, but of the world. Ambitious? Yes, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And with the morphing perception of Brooklyn both in New York and around the country helping to add to the intrigue, a disaster season for the Knicks couldn’t come at a worse time. If the Nets can capitalize, and everything that would need to go right for that to happen does — Deron Williams playing at the same pace he has been the last two games, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce staying fresh and stepping up in the postseason, Andrei Kirilenko staying healthy, and much more — I think the Knicks do stand to lose some ground in the market.
Meanwhile, orange-and-blue fans find themselves venting and looking for answers.
“The reality is they just aren’t as good as last year. Maybe it’s the players. Maybe it’s the coach, but what really gets under my skin is Jason Kidd,” Decker added. “Kidd led by example last year, playing great and being the on the court coach. For me, he’s the biggest loss and seeing him succeed in Brooklyn just rubs salt in the wound.”
Maybe Kidd’s leadership would have this thing going in the right direction for the Knicks. Maybe the Nets would be the ones behind the eight ball with a half full arena come April. But that’s all moot now, and New York’s loss in Brooklyn’s gain. If the Nets can take control of the reins down the stretch, they may be playing for more than simply playoff positioning.