As much as the Brooklyn Nets organization tries to play it down as just another game on an 82-game schedule, tomorrow's showdown with the New York Knicks shapes to be the biggest basketball game played in the city in many years. The collective eyes of New York will be focused squarely on the battle of the boroughs at 7pm Monday night. The game will not be a season defining one for the Nets, but it will go a long way in helping them establish a rivalry with the Knicks who remain 'The City's' team.
The game will tip-off 25-days after it was originally scheduled to (courtesy of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy), but anticipation for the game has not dissipated, in fact it has grown stronger given the momentum both teams have generated since the 2012-13 season began. Brooklyn are proud that they have so far protected home court (6-1 on the season) but the impending arrival of the Knicks certainly takes things up a notch amid reminders from coach Avery Johnson not to get carried away with the moment.
"It's a game that a lot of people have been waiting for," said the coach post-game tonight. "We're excited about it, and we're at home, and I know our guys are gonna be jacked up and ready to play. But, with that said, we gotta be ourselves. We know what style we like to play – a certain tempo we like to play at – and I think it's gonna be a great game."
The postponement of the original game may have turned into a blessing in disguise for the Nets. The squad has now had 12-games under it's belt, they are still a work in progress but with each game that passes they are becoming more comfortable with each other, and the chemistry is building. The Knicks meanwhile still have some figuring out to do – despite their blowout of Detroit today – and appear to have lost some of the polish they displayed in early season victories. Brook Lopez said the Nets are completely different team to what they would have been on opening night.
"You just see our growth each and every game," he says. "We've really improved, we've gotten to know each other better as a team. All the way down we've really united."
Deron Williams, who still remembers the days in New Jersey where the majority of people in the stands were screaming for New York, is looking forward to establishing an intimidating environment at home with overwhelming crowd support for the Nets.
"It'll be a great atmosphere, a lot of fans are looking forward to this game, and obviously we are too. It's going to be a great rivalry for years to come," said Williams. "There's definitely going to be some Knicks fans in there [Barclays], but I don't think it will be as bad as it was last year and the year before that."
So, as the New York media spend the next 24-hours hyping up an already-hyped game even further, the Nets will remain focused on the task at hand. It's the blue collar Brooklyn team against the all-mighty Knicks. And even if the Nets manage to topple their cross-town rival, don't expect them to lose focus of the greater task at hand for them says Reggie Evans, who epitomizes the Brooklyn work ethic.
"It's just another game to be honest with you," says Evans. "Everybody played against everybody at some point in their careers. We just wanna win a championship. If we win we're not gonna be out in the middle of the court celebrating. We're not gonna be poppin' no champagne or anything like that. It's just another game."