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The Knicks were the obvious opponents for the first game at the Barclays Center, but you can thank the postponement from the first day of the month for making the game with the Nets mean something more than just a line in the team's history book.
By putting the game off, both teams have been able to get some ground under their feet and win enough games to rank in the first two spots in the Atlantic Division. Instead of the manufactured "rivalry" of opening night between two teams, you have a game with actual implications that foreshadows a season-long battle for playoff positioning to give the game plenty of juice on top of the fact that it is the Knicks' first visit to Brooklyn.
That might not fit with the talking points that people have decided on for this game, but it is the truth. Calling the Knicks and Nets a rivalry is sort of like calling a shark and a shrimp rivals because they inhabit the same general area of the ocean.
It doesn't work like that, no matter how much the Nets would prefer that it did. Rivalries can only exist between teams on relatively equal footing and the Nets have been punching up at the Knicks for their entire existence, including the two years that they won the Eastern Conference.
And, thanks to the Knicks' rebound from a dreadful Texas trip with an easy win over the Pistons, they are still punching up at them right now. They've got a one-game lead in the Atlantic over the Nets, who spent Sunday beating the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Blazers on their home court.
It's been that way for both teams for most of the season, thrashing bad teams and catching some good ones without a star player in the lineup thanks to injury. That makes Monday night a pretty good measuring stick on both sides of the floor as the Knicks try to show that the defensive problems of late aren't a chronic thing and the Nets try to show that they can stop a dynamic offensive attack.
There are some great matchups -- Tyson Chandler defending the hoop against Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson vs. J.R. Smith -- and an intriguing question about how the Nets will defend the incredibly hot Carmelo Anthony as well as the three-point line. And then there's the Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams going up against the greatest player in the history of the post-Dr. J Nets.
Jason Kidd never played in an arena like the one the Nets now call home and a week's worth of fans at his games would probably fail to equal the number of people in the seats on Monday. It is fitting that Kidd will be there in what the Nets have insisted is a very big night for an organization that's never been shy about their Knicks obsession.
They'd probably prefer that he weren't there hitting threes and stealing balls in a uniform of the team they use as a measuring stick, but it certainly makes for a better chapter of New York's new basketball story this way.