Wednesday is the day NBA teams can officially begin signing free agents, so many of those deals you have been hearing about for the past couple of weeks can be finalized. Wednesday is also the day the landscape of NBA basketball in New York officially changes.
Today is the day that the team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets, a bedraggled, misbegotten franchise that could barely even be called a little brother to the New York Knicks -- more like an unwanted distant cousin -- fully grows up.
The Brooklyn Nets will make the signing of star guard Deron Williams, around whom they are building their new franchise, official today. Williams will team with Joe Johnson -- and maybe Dwight Howard -- in Brooklyn. Fact is, regardless of whether or not Howard becomes a member of the Nets the boys from Brooklyn are the story in New York hoops right now.
Here's a question. If you weren't, or aren't, a fan of the Knicks or Nets and I offered you tickets to see either team play, which would you choose? If somebody made me that offer, I would not hesitate. I would snatch up the Nets tickets and head to the brand-new Barclays Center.
The new kids on the New York City block have become the "in" team. A colleague who lives in the city tells me he sees people sporting Brooklyn Nets gear everywhere he goes. More importantly, the Nets are the New York team around whom there is a buzz. Brooklyn, also, has become a destination where veteran NBA players want to be. Gerald Wallace chose to stay with the Nets. Guys like Derek Fisher and Elton Brand have expressed interest, and there will be others.
Here's another question. You're an NBA player. Given a choice do you want to team with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, or with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson? Again, I would not hesitate. I would want to go team with Williams and Johnson, especially if I was either a big man or a wing shooter. Those guys can create easy baskets for other players, and they are actually willing to pass the basketball.
SB Nation New York columnist Jeff Freier addressed the Knicks vs. Nets issue recently. Here is part of what he wrote:
Brooklynpoint guard is the best basketball player in New York, and he may be the best point guard in the NBA. Better than anyone on the . And Billy King is outshooting Glen Grunwald this July.
As Freier also wrote, "the Nets are making their presence felt for a change."
Stephen A. Smith, writing for ESPN New York, says the Knicks are "inching toward irrelevancy" in their own city. Smith writes:
The New York Knicks appear to be precisely what we thought they would be all along: a team with two highly paid stars, saddled with high expectations but destined for nonexistence in the pantheon of championship contenders. The thing is, those assumptions were made with the belief the Knicks would simply be second-class citizens in the Eastern Conference.
Not playing second fiddle in their own city.
Yet here we are a week into NBA free agency and, before basketball even matters again, the Knicks already find themselves inching toward irrelevancy. Sure, it's nice that they'll officially land Jason Kidd this week, nabbing themselves an experienced floor general capable of nurturing their point guard of the future in Jeremy Lin. But anyone who thinks the roster in Manhattan is better than the one already assembled in Brooklyn might need to visit their nearest eye doctor.
The Knicks will sign veterans Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, and will almost certainly bring back point guard Jeremy Lin. For all intents and purposes, though, the Knicks have brought back the old unsatisfying gang from a season ago, replaces Baron Davis with Kidd and upgraded from Jared Jeffries to Camby at the backup center. That won't push them deep into the playoffs.
Whether the Nets pull off the complicated on-again, off-again trade for Howard they have already taken monumental steps. Smith writes that "The roster is better in Brooklyn. So is the new Barclays Center."
It's hard to argue with Smith, or Freier. The Nets have the best player, the best roster and the prettiest -- if not most historic -- building. They have all the momentum, all the buzz, all the attention. NBA Commissioner David Stern was hoping a rivalry with real intrigue would develop between the two New York franchises, and it seems he is -- at least in the short term -- going to get his wish.
The question is whether or not they can do what the New York Jets have never been able to do to the New Giants, what the New York Mets have never been able to do to the New York Yankees. That, of course, is make it last and become something more than the annoying little brother.