Feb 22, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) controls the ball as Orlando Magic point guard Chris Duhon (25) defends during the second half at the Prudential Center. The Magic won 108-91. Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
We'll start here: Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams is the best basketball player in New York, and he may be the best point guard in the NBA. Better than anyone on the New York Knicks. And Billy King is outshooting Glen Grunwald this July. King's two big gambles, trading for Williams and Gerald Wallace, paid off. Both moves were contingent on the pair re-signing with the Nets this summer, and both of course did. Disaster would have struck the team if neither reupped. The Knicks' to-do list mainly consisted of bringing back Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, while adding another point guard for depth. Seemingly not a big deal. But, as it turns out, it is.
To go along with Williams and Wallace, the Nets added Joe Johnson to their starting lineup, but they were able to keep MarShon Brooks, which will give them a spark off the bench. Sure, what has Joe Johnson ever won? But King looks to be assembling a team that fits, putting the pieces together one by one, each player with a defined role, unlike the "clumsy" Knicks (Phil Jackson's word, not mine). They signed Bosnian power forward Mirza Teletovic with a mid-level exception, which gives them cap wiggle room. They have their eye on Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. And even if they can't swing a deal for Dwight Howard (which seems unlikely), they will probably be able to bring back Brook Lopez and possibly Kris Humphries and his rebounding prowess. Whichever way the roster winds blow, they should have a formidable starting five. Is it championship-level quality? Probably not, unless they get Howard, but their maneuverings are a striking blow for their first season in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, the Knicks lost out on Steve Nash, Jason Kidd appears to be going back to the Dallas Mavericks and Lin has been offered a $31 million, back-loaded contract by the Houston Rockets. And restricted free agent Fields was offered a bounty from the Toronto Raptors (mainly to curtail the Knicks from a sign-and-trade for Nash). The Knicks now pretty much have to match Houston's offer for Lin, which would be overpaying the point guard by a large margin. And Raymond Felton may be the veteran that is paired with Lin (if Lin comes back at all). Fields may be off to Toronto, as his price is too high for the Knicks. They did hold on to Iman Shumpert, though, when Nash chose the Los Angeles Lakers, so that could turn into a blessing in disguise for New York. The Knicks weren't good enough last year, and Grunwald is having a difficult time holding his team together, let alone adding new and better parts. Maybe, though, with a full training camp for Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and whoever else ends up on the team and a full season of Mike Woodson, they'll discover their own Higgs boson, the hidden secret to their so-far unsuccesful chemistry. And maybe the Nets are setting themselves up to be the Miami Marlins of basketball.
But the Nets are making their presence felt for a change. There may finally be a real rivalry between the two teams, like the Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Giants one of old. Just moving to New York is a big step. Yes, it's the outer boroughs but, fair or not, it's a far cry from New Jersey. Though it may just be symbolic, there's a big difference between playing in New Jersey and playing in New York, how fans and the media perceive a team. The Nets are like the New York Jets of 1964. After four years playing in the Polo Grounds, with a shaky, skin-flint owner and drawing around 5,000 fans a game, they moved to Shea Stadium in '64 (one year after changing their name from the Titans to the Jets and Sonny Werblin purchasing the team), with rookie star Matt Snell now in their backfield, and drew 60,000 fans a game. The next year they added Joe Namath and they were soon a world champion and outshining the New York Giants. Of course, to maintain that type of popualrity, a team has to win consistently, which the Jets never did.
But now is the time for the Nets to finally break out of the shadow of the Knicks. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. But this is their best chance since the day they sold Dr. J.