The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will play each other four times in the regular season. That means Jeremy Lin being asked about Carmelo Anthony before every game, and the other way around. But in a league that’s starving for more rivalries, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Jeremy Lin signing with the Nets isn’t going to turn them into a playoff team again overnight. As influential as he’s going to be for them, this team needs much more to be good. The Knicks are a bit closer to competitiveness, so the teams aren’t in the same place right now. But Lin makes the Nets interesting, on a local and national level. When nobody really cares about you, it’s hard to develop a serious rivalry. But before we go in deeper into that, something that’s not Knicks-Nets related:
One of the top links on Reddit right now, and not just in the sports or NBA subreddits, is this tweet about the financial sacrifice Lin’s parents (in this specific tweet, his mom) made to make sure he had everything he needed going through the NBA draft. But there are people far better than me to speak about that side of Lin’s story, so we’ll get back to some basketball hypothetics and theory.
Jeremy Lin’s mom took $ out of her 401K to get him thru NBA draft to make sure he had enough to eat, after she & dad were laid off. #TNYfest
— Jo Ling Kent (@jolingkent) October 9, 2016
Anyone who is even a minor Star Wars fan knows this line: Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Poetry. So what does this have to do with the cultivation of a Knicks-Nets rivalry? Well, hate is a big part in the equation of a rivalry. As a wise man once said: We should stop discriminating and hating each other based on religion, race or color, and start doing it according to the teams they root for. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s more or less the message: It’s better to take sports rivalries very seriously than things that actually lead to, well, far worse, although that too has an ugly side when no one takes things in the right proportions.
Do Knicks fans hate Lin? Some, sure. He got disgustingly bombarded with hate and racist tweets after joining the Houston Rockets. Some people defend their team beyond reason. I have no doubt in my mind that Carmelo Anthony can’t stand Lin and the fact that he’s doing well, landed a nice contract and is the best player on his team. It might take the Nets a long time, maybe forever, to displace the Knicks as the fan favorites of New York. Probably impossible, just like it is for the Clippers on the other side of the US. But Lin can be just as big of a star as Anthony. The media loves him, he’s a lot more fun to watch, and he doesn’t have the yoke of being compared to his draft classmates, who are much more successful and better than him. Lin is something unique in this league, and something of a trail blazer. Anthony is very good, but not special.
But there has to be more than just the media trying to pry out comments from Lin and Anthony about each other to sustain a rivalry, and make the Nets-Knicks games bigger. Since the Nets moved to Brooklyn, they and the Knicks have made the playoffs in the same season just once. Meeting each other four-five times a season helps build something, but higher stakes are better. Playoff series (there have been three between the franchises) and prolonged success for both teams is a much better ingredient.
Based on most preseason predictions, the Knicks are going to make the playoffs while the Nets, at the beginning of a journey (the word Process has been stained by the Sixers), are a lot of experts pick to finish last in the East. I’m not so sure the Knicks will be that good, and I don’t think the Nets will be that bad. Maybe playing the Anthony-Lin card is the best thing for the New York media to do right now, but I have a feeling that after some relatively dormant years on the Nets vs Knicks front, things are going to get a lot more interesting.