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It's finally here.
It's been years in the making and we finally see a game featuring two NBA teams from New York City on the same court as the same time. Knicks vs. Nets, Manhattan vs. Brooklyn, Billionaire vs. Billionaire and MSG vs. Barclays all come to a head during the preseason finale on Wednesday night.
The rivalry between the teams is just a much lower volume version of the Pacers-Knicks battles of the 1990s, when the teams fought tooth and nail for the right to lose in the next round to a better opponent in the Eastern Conference or NBA Finals. It was exciting, emotional and ultimately meaningless because bragging rights in a rivalry mean zero after college if there isn't a championship attached to it.
That's what the Knicks-Nets rivalry feels like at the moment, with the real or imagined differences between boroughs taking the place of the city vs. country backdrop to the Knicks and Pacers. Whichever team winds up with the best record still profiles as cannon fodder for the Heat, a reality that the two teams can only dodge so long as they try to make it seem like there's some more value to beating each other than there is to beating the Wizards.
Given the fact that neither team seems remotely interested in winning a title based on their offseasons, they will surely concentrate on building up the bragging rights associated with winning their regular season series, something that will make the owners richer without serving any larger cause. It's just the right kind of meaningless for a city where people act like it makes a huge difference whether you pay millions of dollars to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn.
Wednesday night's version of it will be particularly meaningless in the larger sense since it is a preseason game being played at Nassau Coliseum, an arena that hasn't hosted a meaningful event in about 30 years. It will be a good chance to check out each team's glaring flaws, however.
The Nets made lots of people happy with the Joe Johnson trade this offseason, allowing them to bring Deron Williams back to town and enter Brooklyn with a team that should wind up with a winning record. If they don't, it will be because they are a pretty awful defensive team in large part because Brook Lopez is a massive liability on that end of the floor.
They've been awful all through the preseason and figure to be awful all through the regular season since Avery Johnson has been a coach long enough for us to know he's not a miracle worker at that end. The Nets will score plenty, but those who grew up playing rough on the courts of Kings County won't appreciate their lack of effort and execution at the other end.
The Knicks, meanwhile, stroll into Wednesday night with several ailing players on their ancient roster, including Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith. As a result of the injuries and the rather haphazardly put together roster, no one's quite sure who is starting where and what the rotations will look like to start the season.
It might not get any clearer as the season progresses, either. With a bunch of old players, the Knicks are likely to be constantly changing their rotations around Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler based on who is available on a given night and that's no recipe for success.
Things won't be much different on either of those fronts next Thursday night, but the game will actually count for something. One plus to Knicks-Nets games this year is that the Eastern Conference is such a junk heap behind the Heat that they will have a sizable impact on the final playoff pecking order and that will start from the first night of the season.
Beyond that, the results will make for good headlines and arguments among friends if not anything that will actually shape the 2012-2013 NBA season all that significantly.