The New York Knicks could never really build a rivalry with the Nets while they were on the other side of the Hudson, but both sides tried to change that upon meeting in the 2004 playoffs.
Despite the close proximity to each other, it was impossible to get anything cooking between the Knicks and New Jersey Nets. For the better part of 35 years, the teams never matched successful seasons. When the Knicks were cranking, the Nets were basement dwellers, and vice versa. They wound up meeting in the playoffs only three times, with two of those series being sweeps, and the other being a 3-1 win by the Knicks.
The Knicks were the victims of one of those sweeps in 2004, but in true New York fashion, wouldn’t go down without any fireworks first. Before the playoffs even started, some Knicks players had their eyes on the Nets, despite the face that New Jersey was the two-time defending Eastern Conference Champions and the Knicks squeaked in as a seventh-seed with a record of 39-43. The rivalry between Kidd and Marbury didn’t help either, although the only reason why they had a tiff was because Marbury didn’t agree with Kidd’s decleration of himself as the league’s best point guard. How ridiculous does that sound almost 10 years later?
Still, the main reason for the drama came from Tim Thomas and Kenyon Martin. Weirdly, it all stemmed from a hard foul by Jason Collins.
Thomas became infatuated with the idea of getting his shot at K-Mart, challenging him to boxing matches and vowing to come back for Game 4 so he could have his chance to hit him. Martin threw some comments back Thomas’s way, but for the most part, he took the high road. I guess he was too busy winning a playoff series or something. Tim Thomas never really did much for the Knicks, but if nothing else, I guess he taught us all the definition of “fugazi.”
In retrospect, the Knicks and Nets were quite connected at the hip in the early 2000s. Martin and Kidd would go on to don the blue and orange, and of course, Kidd will be coaching against his former teammates tonight. Alonzo Morning, who is forever hated by Knicks fans, was part of that Nets squad for some of the 2003-04 season. Hubert Davis was even on the New Jersey roster. Former Net-fan favorites Stephon Marbury and Keith Van Horn called New York their home at the time.
It was the last time the Knicks would see the playoffs until 2011, and they went down without a fight, much to the chagrin of Tim Thomas. I think it’s safe to say these teams won’t be squaring up against each other in the playoffs this time around, but now that the Nets are in New York, the rivalry is at an all-time high.