“It’s about time,” Kobe Bryant said, smiling and punctuating the sentiment with a profanity.
Basketball fans in New York know the feeling.
The and have shared a television market, a river and tunnels and bridges, but that is about it. There has rarely been a rivalry to speak of — one franchise rising as the other is falling, or both hitting the skids simultaneously, in a rivalry of wretchedness.
The region may be one trade away from a feisty new era.
The Knicks now boast one of the top frontcourts in the league, with Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. The Brooklyn-bound Nets have perhaps the N.B.A.’s top point guard, Deron Williams, and are pushing hard to extract from Orlando.
One trade — one player — could change everything.
“Absolutely,” Anthony said. “I’m excited about that. Hopefully, the Nets make something happen. They’re due for it. They’re due to make some change, make something happen. Hopefully, they keep Deron over there and get some pieces over there.”
The Knicks and the Nets meet Saturday afternoon in Newark, in the first of two preseason games, with the odds stacked in the Knicks’ favor. Williams is an anxious star without a supporting cast, leaning only on the enigmatic center Brook Lopez, the sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and a lineup of spare parts.
Williams may be a short-timer, with plans to explore free agency next summer and the Dallas Mavericks waiting to pounce. If the Nets cannot find Williams a co-star soon, he could be gone by the time they make it to Brooklyn.
Not long ago, Anthony himself had the chance to change the Nets’ fate. A year ago, he was pushing the Denver Nuggets to trade him, and the Nets were his most aggressive suitor, dangling an enticing package of talent and draft picks. But Anthony balked at signing an extension and forced his way to the Knicks, where he could join Stoudemire, instead of trying to revive a franchise on his own.
It was Stoudemire who, just a few days before the Anthony trade, noted that star players did not view New Jersey as a desirable destination, despite the proximity to Manhattan. The Clippers carry the same burden, despite their proximity to, well, the Lakers. Winning and reputations matter a lot.
The Knicks, like the Lakers, are a storied franchise, while the Nets, like the Clippers, are a franchise of sad stories.
Stoudemire revived the Knicks last summer, and Anthony and Chandler followed. Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick in 2009, made the Clippers more palatable for Paul (who had asked to be traded to the Lakers or the Knicks). Williams is similarly changing perceptions. When Howard made his trade request, he reportedly listed the Nets ahead of the Lakers and the Mavericks. The imminent move to Brooklyn helps, too.
“Deron obviously is a key piece,” Stoudemire said. “He’s an important guy that you want to play with. He’s a phenomenal point guard. But I still think that there’s a little more work that needs to be done, as far as surrounding Deron with talent that they need to be successful. You want to be in a playoff atmosphere. If those guys can make that next step to get to the playoffs, then more players will be willing to play there.”
Still, the Nets are in the hunt and perhaps on the verge of something special. Anthony may have shunned them as an employer, but his eyes brighten at the possibility of a Knicks-Nets rivalry.
“I mean, I’m a Brooklyn guy,” said Anthony, who spent part of his childhood in Red Hook, “so I know how intense and how committed and loyal them fans are over there in Brooklyn, how excited they are for that team. It makes it fun for us, too.”
If the Clippers can become relevant, anything is possible.
The Knicks are one of a half-dozen teams planning to pursue Travis Outlaw if he clears waivers and becomes a free agent. The Nets waived Outlaw under the N.B.A.’s amnesty provision on Thursday. He will clear waivers at 6 p.m. Saturday, unless a team with salary-cap room places a bid on him. The Knicks hope to sign Outlaw to their $2.5 million cap exception, although he could get bigger offers. …Bill Walker (groin injury) will not play in Saturday’s preseason game.