Paul Pierce will tell you that even though he's yet to play a game for the Nets. Maybe he's just trying to keep it like old times. When the small forward played for the Boston Celtics, rivalries came naturally. The Los Angeles Lakers historically made an East Coast versus West Coast battle easy because both teams have met in the NBA Finals multiple times. The Knicks were an easy local rival for Boston, though tensions never quite turned into the hatred exhibited between the Yankees and Red Sox. But there's history there.
The Nets rivals? Until the last couple of years, they never could assemble the talent to create any of that needed history for a rivalry to develop. With owner Mikhail Prokhorov willing to spend away, it's been a little more easy to put together a winning team -- but again, the talent has only been there for a year or so.
Yet, Pierce has been making the rounds since being traded from Boston, telling anyone who will listen that the Knicks and Nets are fierce rivals. Since arriving in Brooklyn, he's really been forcing it. Like, really, really forcing it. Whether it's a self-motivational tactic or otherwise -- maybe Pierce is really trying to brush up some hype for the good of the game -- Pierce's trolling has gotten bites from the Knicks.
So if you don't believe it's a rivalry just yet, then here are all the reasons why you should believe it.
- Via the New York Post: "My dislike for the Knicks is more now because it's right across the river." Pierce went onto the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio and pointed out that the Nets, his new team, is across the river from the Knicks. That would be the East River, which separates Manhattan -- the borough where Madison Square Garden is located -- from Brooklyn. Like all great clashes in history, waterways are an easy way to distinguish boundaries.
- Via Life and Times Magazine: "It's going to be what it was, but now on steroids," Pierce said. "This is a city battle. We're going to divide that city now. Before this was the Knicks town, but now that I'm here we're going to call it Nets ... Nets Village. It's going to go from Knicks Town to Nets Village. It's our time." In Pierce's campaign to play up the new rivalry, he has been hard at work getting some marketing campaigns going. Better trademark Nets Village. Also in this interview, Pierce points out that the Nets and Heat will be "another new rivalry." Because why not have a rivalry with everybody?
- Via Complex Magazine: Asked if he hates the Knicks, Pierce said, "With a passion. Let's start it up right now. Let's start the beef. It's no secret that me and New York got history. It's no secret. This is no secret. It's already known." Glad we cleared that up.
- Via ESPN New York: If Pierce is trying to get a rise from the Knicks, he's succeeded. New York point guard Raymond Felton was the first to comment on the rivalry from the Knicks point of view, and he both dismissed and agreed with Pierce's comments. "They will never take over the city. Because we've got 'New York' on our chest," Felton said of the Nets. "They've got 'Brooklyn' on their chest, and we've got 'New York.' They'll never take over the city."
- Via the New York Post: Knicks guard J.R. Smith is "100 percent sure" New York will bring a championship trophy home this coming season. Smith joined New York in 2012 and apparently chose that option over the Nets because, "The Nets weren't good. Now they're still not good.'' J.R. Smith has no scruples about firing away in the offseason.
- Via ESPN New York: Smith knows why Pierce is playing up the rivalry. "I just look at him as a bitter person just getting out of Boston. He doesn't really know what New York is all about. He's been playing in Boston his whole career," Smith told ESPN New York on Saturday. Good thing J.R. is here for us, otherwise we wouldn't know why cooky old man Pierce is so riled up about this whole thing.
- Via the New York Post: David Stern wants the Knicks and Nets to play nice. Before Pierce caused all this hullabaloo, Knicks owner James Dolan sat down with Prokhorov at the urging of the league to hash out a friendliness. Seems that Pierce has set that plan on fire.
It's not all on Pierce that this manufactured rivalry has come to be. It goes back to last year when, according to the Post, Dolan complained to the league office about a 22-story Nets billboard plastered in the city. And it hasn't helped that Prokhorov has taken a few jabs at Dolan through the media.
At the same time, it's fitting this is all being created in a very New York type of way, with heavy spending and sharp, honest personalities at the forefront.