It can’t be a rivalry if the results are this lopsided.
Even if the Knicks and Nets wanted to feed into the cross-bridge rivalry narrative — which they don’t — the numbers lean too drastically in Brooklyn’s favor.
Sunday’s 122-115 victory marked the Nets’ ninth straight victory over their nearby opponent. The Knicks have not beaten the Nets in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving era. That did not change with Durant watching Sunday’s showdown from the sidelines nursing an MCL sprain in his right knee. Ben Simmons also missed Sunday’s game with soreness in his left knee.
“I think what makes it a competitive atmosphere is you have two New York teams,” Vaughn said ahead of tip-off against the Knicks on Saturday. “We’re always jockeying for new fans, old fans, the attention, big city — but I think it needs to grow some more by having some more meaningful games before it gets to (a rivalry).
The NBA deemed the week of Jan. 21-28 as a league-wide rivalry week. The Nets played the Philadelphia 76ers in a game with playoff implications given the proximity of the Nets and Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings.
The breadcrumbs, of course, suggest the rivalry is deeper than just their record or the two cities’ proximity to each other: The Sixers traded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks to the Nets for James Harden last season. Both Harden and Simmons wanted out of their respective cities, with Simmons enduring a particularly toxic departure from Philadelphia.
Yet Durant maintained there’s no rivalry between Philly and Brooklyn, that rivalries are scarce in the NBA because teams typically don’t play enough meaningful games to create legitimate tension.
Vaughn offered a similar view when discussing the relationship with the Knicks. He leaned on his experience as point guard for the Kansas Jayhawks to give some perspective.
“Kansas-Missouri used to be a rivalry. North Carolina and Duke. Those are rivalries where you’ve played so many games and you’ve established a rapport that probably isn’t likable amongst the two teams for a long time, maybe even generations,” Vaughn said. “That would be my immediate reflection of what a rivalry is. But free agency and movement, you can try to navigate and create a rivalry, but until you have a history of playing each other, I don’t think it really exists.”
Vaughn said Celtics-Lakers remains one of the NBA’s only legitimate rivalries.
“I can remember that as a kid. That’s a rivalry. That’s generational,” he said. “I grew up: Sundays, going to church, couldn’t wait until I got back home to see the Lakers play Boston. That’s a rivalry that I still remember to this day that still exists. It’s history.”