This could get interesting.
After nearly a decade of wringing the hearts of every loyal fan with putrid play and gross mismanagement, the New York Knicks finally recaptured some of that 90s magic last season, riding a wave of global warmth in the Jeremy Lin story. The Knicks were finally exciting once again. A 23 year old rookie cut by two teams in his career led the Knicks to a seven game winning streak, saving the Knicks season in the process. No, neither Carmelo Anthony nor Amare Stoudemire, nor any combination of the two, made the Knicks anywhere near as fun to watch. When Lin made the buzzer beating three for the win against the Raptors? The world sat up and took notice, with TIME magazine naming him the most influential person in the world in their annual list. So long as the NY Knicks had Jeremy Lin, there was no real doubt as to who people in New York would queue up to watch next season.
As it turns out, however, James Dolan and the Knicks have let Lin walk – he’s to join the Houston Rockets on a 3 year, 25 million dollar contract. After years of management stupidity and piling up atrocious player after atrocious player on gargantuan contracts, Dolan has inexplicably let Lin walk, reportedly feeling “slighted” that Lin structured his contract with the Rockets in such a way that it would cost the Knicks a bomb (40 million in luxury tax payments in year 3) to match Houston’s offer. This is the same guy who offered eight figure contracts to Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph and Stephon Marbury, you know, the worst contracts in the history of basketball?
So where does that leave the noble fans of New York basketball?
In this corner, we have the challenger, the Russian Revelation, the new guys in town, from over the bridge and across the sea, the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have brought life to NY, Eastern Conference and Nets basketball. Their billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov has just committed to over 330 million dollars in salaries. He’s done this from Russia. He’s done this without a second thought. He drinks your milkshake, Mr. Dolan.
The Nets have a superstar, they have a great coach and they have hope. The hope of a new beginning, the hope of Dwight Howard, the hope of an All-star backcourt. The minute the Knicks decided to let Lin go, the battle for New York began. Because the Knicks, with a core of Carmelo Anthony (the only member of the top 5 from the 2003 draft to not win a ring, by the way), Amare “hands-on-fiyaaah” Stoudemire and a Tyson Chandler who is possibly cursing the day he signed with the Knicks, are exactly where they were at the beginning of last season. Don’t let the Jason Kidd or Raymond Felton signings fool you; they’re merely the icing on an already stale cake. The Knicks promised a championship, but this team isn’t going to win one and the people over at the Big Apple know it.
The Nets have a chance to KO the Knicks in the very first round. They have a chance to become the Kings of New York with a good start to the season. Knicks fans are going to be wary of their team till the Knicks win a playoff series. Letting Lin go is going to come back to bite in the Knicks and when it does, the wrath of a tabloid town will fall upon them. It’s going to be a battle of brands, a battle of moolah and a battle of entertainment. Prokhorov has shown that he is willing to pump endless amounts of money into the Nets; Dolan has shown that he is capable of re-hiring Knicks-fan-nightmare Isiah Thomas at the drop of a hat.
What’s at stake? Only the biggest market in basketball. Can the Nets begin to replace the Knicks in the NY basketball imagination? This is going to be between big bucks and bigger bucks, between Brooklyn and Manhattan, a war for the bragging rights as #1 team in NY. Finally, we can say of NY basketball: this is going to be interesting.