Coming into the 2013-14 NBA season, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets certainly had December 5 circled on their calendars. It would be the first meeting of the season between New York’s two franchises—the perfect opportunity to stake claim as the city’s premier NBA team of this generation.
After shaking up their rosters, both franchises headed into the season with high expectations regarding the NBA playoffs and their spot as New York City’s top dog. They weren’t shy about it either. New Net Paul Pierce declared “it’s time for the Nets to start running the city.” JR Smith responded by calling him “bitter,” while Raymond Felton flat-out said Brooklyn “would never take over New York.” Smith also said he was 100 percent sure the Knicks would win the NBA Championship in 2013-14, drawing a classic “lol” reaction tweet from Reggie Evans. Jason Terry joined in on the fun also.
With revamped rosters (particularly the Nets’ acquisition of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry) and quality jawing, the anticipation was quickly being built for this Dec. 5 showdown. Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway ranked this matchup as the second-most anticipated among fans. The Knicks and Nets would have a national audience on the NBA’s biggest night of the week (NBA on TNT) to begin this season’s battle for New York. Even if there wasn’t a championship to be won, sitting atop New York City would serve as a consolation prize.
Now, a game that was once about bragging rights—establishing dominance of the Big Apple—has turned into a must-win, desperation matchup for opposite reasons. It’s no longer about who the better team is, but who the less-worse team is. The tone has changed since the summer, with Carmelo Anthony recently calling his New York Knicks a “laughingstock” and coach Jason Kidd downplaying the game somewhat because “both teams stink.”
No one could have predicted the nightmare starts the Nets (5-13) and Knicks (3-13) are experiencing, currently occupying the last two spots in the Atlantic Division. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have a worse record in the Eastern Conference. On a larger scale, the Knicks and Nets are the fourth- and fifth-worst teams in the NBA, respectively.
Both franchises are reeling on and off the court, from piled up loses to injuries to in-fighting. This game won’t be the glamor we expected just months ago. They’ll be no Tyson Chandler and no Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to back up their summer trash talk. They’ll be no boastful claims at the final buzzer. The one bright side to the matchup between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets: A New York team is guaranteed a “W.”