Raymond Felton says that New York will always belong to the Knicks. Paul Pierce says that “it’s time for the Nets to start running this city.” The two teams do not play each other until December 5th, so for now let us delve into the archives for a look at how this rivalry used to play out during a much more physical era – when tough talk was backed up by hard fouls, and hard fouls were an accepted part of the game.
It’s the 1992/93 season, and the New Jersey Nets have two potential superstars in power forward Derrick Coleman and point guard Kenny Anderson to go with one of the best shooters in the game in Drazen Petrovic, and a two-time title-winning coach in Chuck Daly. They enter the second half of the season with a chip on their shoulder. Despite their resurgence as a franchise, none of their players got voted onto the All-Star team; no one respects them. Playing on national TV for the first time since 1984, this is their chance to make a statement.
February 28, 1993: New York Knicks @ New Jersey Nets
John Starks: forever a Knicks hero. Two months later, he did THIS.
Petrovic pulls up for an open 3 on the fast break: easy money. The Knicks know better than to leave him open. Mike Fratello: “He’s the best there is right now (in terms of shooters) – although Mark Price might argue a little bit.” Three months later, he was dead.
Fratello on Charles Smith: “He’s got the great body, he’s got the muscles, but does he get it done for you on a regular basis? That’s what the Knicks want to find out.” Marv confirms: “He’s got to show that he can do it when the game is on the line.” The Knicks would soon get their answer.
Much to the Nets’ anger, Anderson’s wrist turned out to be broken, causing him to miss the rest of the ‘92/93 season and experience pain throughout the ‘93/94 season before finally having surgery in the ’94 offseason. Starks received a flagrant foul on the play. In today’s league, he would likely be ejected (after an exhaustingly long replay review) and subsequently suspended.
Marv breaks down how the Knicks are perceived around the league: “Some say dirty, some say aggressive, some say physical.” In the NBA of 2013 they’d be lucky to get through a week without drawing a suspension. Long live the early ‘90s.
The next play down the floor, Coleman gives Starks a forearm to the chest in retaliation. Words and menacing stares are exchanged, and Dudley has to be restrained by a ref. No technical fouls are given out. Marv gives the scene his age-old stamp of approval: “And things are beginning to get testy.” The Knicks/Nets rivalry, never really a serious proposition until this point, is officially alive.
The rout is on as Petrovic hits an absurd off-balance one-hander and the Nets continue to light it up, much to their fans’ approval. Marv: “This is the first time that I can recall at a Knicks/Nets game at the Meadowlands that most of the home crowd is rooting for the home team.”
Just for good measure, Coleman clobbers Anthony from behind on a layup attempt. Anthony dusts himself off without complaint. Marv: “We may see more hitting here in the second half than at the Devils’ National Hockey League game taking place tonight.”
A Tate George sighting! The 22nd pick in the 1990 Draft, George averaged 4.2 points over 177 career games. In undoubtedly the highlight of his career, he once put up 18 points and 9 assists against Magic Johnson and the Lakers.
A Bernard King sighting! The last time the Nets played on national TV (Christmas Day 1984), he scored 60 on them. This was Bernard’s final season and he only appeared in 32 games, but he still knew how to put the ball in the basket: 13.4 minutes, 7.0 points, 51.4% shooting. Career stats: 874 games, 33.7 minutes, 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 51.8% shooting. Respect.
Dudley goes to the foul line after being whacked by Anthony Mason. Marv pokes fun at Dudley’s free throw technique as only Marv can: “This sets up an adventure… watch the form here…” Indeed, it is a must-watch:
Dudley: 691-for-158 from the line for his career.
With the game out of hand, comedian Bill Murray tells Ahmad Rashad: “I’m from Illinois, I’m scouting both these teams for the Bulls. These are the strangest fans I’ve ever seen… I don’t know what these people eat before they come in. This is a really strange group of people.”
Final score: Nets 102, Knicks 76. Marv: “In recent franchise history of the New Jersey Nets, this performance has to be one of their shining moments, perhaps a benchmark, a warning that they have arrived.”
The game would prove to be a wake-up call for the Knicks, who went on an immediate 9-game winning streak and won 24 of 28 games to close the regular season with a 60-22 record, the best in the East. Ewing averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds over those 28 games, perhaps the finest two-month spell of his career. If the MVP award was based on games played in March and April, he would have won it that year. Alas, Jordan and the Bulls awaited in the Conference Finals.
Sadly for the Nets, their so-called “arrival” turned out to be a non-starter. Without the injured Anderson, they lost 10 of their last 11 regular season games, finishing 43-39. As a 6th seed, they lost 3-2 to the Brad Daugherty and Mark Price-led Cavs in the first round, and Petrovic would tragically die in a car crash that offseason. The following year, the Nets improved to 45-37, winning four of five regular season games against the Knicks before facing them in the first round of the playoffs. New York won the series 3-1, effectively putting an end to any plans the upstart Nets had of challenging their supremacy in the tri-state area – until they moved to Brooklyn 20 years later.