The Best of Frenemies
Nets, Knicks call off 'Cold War' to co-host 2015 NYC All-Star weekend
There were no cutting words exchanged by high-powered owners, not a sign — or billboard — of contention, and nary a boast or barb to be heard as the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks declared that there would be three days of peace between them come the winter after next.
Our city’s NBA teams literally met in the middle Wednesday afternoon at Washington Street’s Industria Superstudio in Greenwich Village, declaring a detente in their ongoing feud for local bragging rights by officially revealing that they would share co-hosting duties during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend from Feb. 13-15, 2015.
“Each of them were very receptive to the idea,” NBA commissioner David Stern (pictured above) said after confirming that he had brokered a Glasnost between Knicks owner James Dolan and the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov in advance of the landmark announcement. “They thought it would be a good idea to get together, that’s all.”
Getting together hasn’t exactly been on the dueling owners’ agenda since Prokhorov became principal owner of the Nets nearly four years ago.
The Russian billionaire appeared to take great pleasure in tweaking his East River rivals whenever the opportunity presented itself, posting his infamous “Blueprint for Greatness” billboard outside of Madison Square Garden back in 2010 and calling Dolan a “little man” in a New York Magazine article.
Knicks players like Ray Felton and J.R. Smith have taken turns reminding the Nets that they are still, and perhaps shall always remain, our city’s “other team”.
Newly acquired Brooklyn forward Paul Pierce has returned the not-so-friendly fire by declaring that there will be a new sheriff in town, as well as the Atlantic Division, once the opening tip on the 2013-14 campaign goes up just over a month from now.
But the acrimony between the two factions couldn’t stand in the way of what promises to be three nights of sold-out arenas during the league’s annual All-Star extravaganza.
Stern and his eventual successor, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, revealed that the 64th edition of the All-Star Game would be played on the hallowed hardwood of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” on Feb. 15, 2015.
In turn, the Barclays Center will host a slew of events — Rising Stars Challenge, 3-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Competition, etc. — leading up to the big game on both Friday and Saturday night.
“The All-Star Game [is an opportunity] to take a timeout from the rhetoric to promote basketball,” Dolan insisted when asked about his perceived feud with Prokhorov. “[Rivalries] are nothing but good, they’re nothing but fun for the fans and they are great for business.”
Prokhorov, who was unable to attend the announcement ceremony, did issue a statement regarding his agreement to play nice-nice with Dolan and the Knicks, albeit for a span of 72 hours some 17 months from now.
“We are thrilled to welcome the 2015 NBA All-Star festivities on Friday and Saturday to Barclays Center,” he said. “Brooklyn has produced some of the greatest players in NBA history, so it’s fitting to hold All-Star events in the ‘Borough of Basketball.’ We are looking forward to showing fans and the players a memorable experience in our state-of-the-art venue, and we are also excited to bring the All-Star Game to Barclays Center in the very near future.”
Neither Stern nor Silver intimated that the Nets and Knicks would reverse roles the next time the All-Star Game landed in the Big Apple. But many believe this deal was reached with the unwritten agreement that the Barclays Center would eventually host the All-Star Game itself while the Garden plays host to the surrounding events, possibly as soon as 2017.
“We’re not ready to be specific yet but there will be an opportunity for Brooklyn to host the game,” Silver, who will succeed Stern after this coming campaign, admitted.
“Three or four years ago this seemed impossible,” added Downtown developer Bruce Ratner, who launched the plan to build the arena and bring the Nets to Brooklyn when he took ownership of the struggling then-New Jersey franchise back in 2003.
“Barclays Center is proud to welcome such an exciting event as All-Star ’15 and to continue bringing the best to Brooklyn,” he added. “We are delighted to join with New York City, the NBA and Madison Square Garden for a wonderful weekend. Basketball may have been invented in Springfield, Mass., but its heart and soul are in NYC through and through.”
Though there was a one previous split of All-Star Weekend venues in Dallas in 2010, with the Mavericks’ American Airlines Center hosting All-Star Friday and Saturday before the All-Star Game was played at brand new Cowboys Stadium, this will be the first time two NBA franchises split the festivities.
“New York offers an extraordinary opportunity to host NBA All-Star events at two world-class venues,” explained Stern. “We look forward to celebrating our game with basketball fans across the entire city, in all five boroughs.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an admitted Boston Celtics fan in his younger days, refused to take sides in the Brooklyn-New York basketball rivalry. He wished to “remain neutral” while gushing with pride over the arrival of the latest big-ticket event in the Big Apple following this year’s MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field and February’s much-anticipated New York/New Jersey Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
“New York City is the basketball capital of the world and the sport’s biggest stage,” the Mayor said. “We’re lucky enough to have two world-class arenas, and the only thing better than having All-Star weekend at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center is having it at both of them. The weekend’s activities mean tens of thousands of visitors to the city and lots of activity for local businesses, plus a week of community service events around the five boroughs led by the NBA, which has a terrific record of giving back. We’re thrilled and looking forward to cheering on the stars.”
“We are honored to host the greatest players in the NBA in the newly transformed World’s Most Famous Arena for the 2015 All-Star Game,” added Dolan. “Over its 134-year history, Madison Square Garden has been privileged to host some of sports most defining and enduring moments and we are thrilled to add this prestigious event to The Garden’s illustrious history. We look forward to working with the City of New York, the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets to make the event a celebration of basketball for all New Yorkers to enjoy.”
Fortunately, the press conference of peace won’t stand in the way of what promises to be the most intense season of New York basketball the city has ever seen.
Both teams will open training camp next week, and will begin their respective 82-game campaigns in just over a month.
The Knicks and Nets will hash out their issues on the court four times during the regular season, and if we’re all lucky, will meet again in a best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series next spring.
Dolan, who has been on the receiving end of Prokhorov’s playful taunts the past few years, did get one veiled jab in at his adversary during Wednesday’s lovefest.
When asked what he got out of the meeting with Prokhorov at the commissioner’s office, the Garden chief had two simple words: “Free lunch!”
Not exactly fighting words, but a reminder that there is still plenty to play for between the Knicks and Nets from now until February 2015.
And, fortunately for NYC hoops fanatics, it appears there always will be.
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