The rest of the world has noticed the Nets…so when will they dominate NYC's headlines?


As with most towns, New York City points the foam finger at the winners. Even if the Yankees are more accomplished, the Big Apple morphs into a Mets town with one trip to the World Series. Likewise, the Giants are the local NFL club of record, but Gotham turned 50 shades of Gang Green under Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan.

Indeed, the New York City sports scene is mostly a meritocracy, with one blinding exception.

No matter how many games they stumble through, coaches they blow through, or seasons they sleep through, the Knicks never tumble from their perch as NYC's NBA team. Even when Jason Kidd led the Nets on fast breaks to two NBA Finals, they were the forgotten cousins stewing in the Meadowlands swamp. So they moved to a higher rent district, but still long for attention.

If the Nets are to leapfrog the Knicks, it has to be this year, while the Knicks are toiling in their nth rebuild, with B-List players and late lottery picks. Indeed, RJ Barrett is the lone, young, blossoming star, already looking more capable and confident than he was last year. Meanwhile, the Nets made a monster investment last year - signing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant - and early on, at least, it finally seems to be paying off. Even the coaching nod points to Brooklyn, where the Nets hired Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, giving them the sheen of success, while the Knicks have employed the very stern and very experienced, but rather recycled, Tom Thibodeau.

It's our impulse to overreact to one game - particularly the first game - of the NBA season. The Nets rolled over Steph Curry and the formerly invincible Warriors, while the Knicks got spanked on the road by the Indiana Pacers. And, add to that the fact that Irving and Durant, an expensive investment for no return at the time, looked fantastic at Barclays Center in their first game as teammates.

For the first time in a long time, the nation has taken notice. Depending on the sportsbook, the Nets have either the second or third-best odds to win the NBA title, bunched in a group with the Lakers, Bucks, and ever-disappointing Clippers. Once Vegas throws down on a team, the glowing projections have grown beyond homerism. This isn't clickbait or crowing of a few prominent Nets fans, starting with Evan Roberts - if healthy, the Nets are for real.

But will it be enough to own our airwaves? Despite their epic struggles this century, the Knicks somehow remain the top name on the marquee, the owners of the bold ink and back page, and somehow the most valuable franchise in the NBA. According to Forbes, the Knicks are worth $4.6 billion despite their playoff droughts, and the nearly 50 years since they last won an NBA title. The Los Angeles Lakers, with 11 world championships since the Knicks last won one (in 1973), are valued at $4.4 billion. It's a marginal difference, but mind-boggling when you consider their respective successes – or, with the Knicks, their lack thereof.

The Knicks also have the worst record in the NBA over the last 21 seasons, winning 41 percent of their games for a record of 693-997. The Nets have been a little better, with a record of 740-956, winning 44 percent of their games.

For their part, the NBA has noticed the wide chasm between the two teams this year, and has decided to feature the Nets during its cherished slate of Christmas games. The league has long used Christmas to showcase its best squads, and the Nets are not only part of it, but are in the middle of it. Disney has whisked the Nets past their cable station (ESPN) for the more accessible ABC, at 5 p.m. against the Boston Celtics. Out of five Christmas Day games, the Nets-Celtics game is dead in the middle (third), and perhaps presents the best show. A win on the NBA's signature day would go some way to busting out of the small publicity bubble that has trapped them for years.

The next "national" game the Knicks play is buried deep into Saturday night, on NBA TV, against the Philadelphia 76ers. It seems the world west of the Hudson has noticed the Brooklyn Nets as its own team, primed to own the town.
How long will it take for New York City basketball fans to do the same?

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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