At a news conference to introduce shooting guard Joe Johnson, Nets general manager Billy King declared Johnson and point guard Deron Williams the best backcourt in the NBA, and Johnson asserted that the Nets had supplanted the New York Knicks as the best NBA team in New York City.
It was just the sort of bluster New Yorkers love to hear. It was also dead-on accurate.
Scoffing at King's statement about the best backcourt is easy until one actually takes a look at the rest of the backcourts in the NBA. The newly paired Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles may possess greater name recognition, but Williams laps Nash at this point, while Bryant is no longer light years ahead of Johnson, as he once was. Aside from that, who is there? Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings?
As for the Knicks, the longer they dilly-dally with sending a new contract to Jeremy Lin, the longer they will flirt with irrelevance. Yes, a team that employs Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd will always have a place on the back pages, but the Knicks could be rendered irrelevant in the league at large if the Nets get off to a hot start and the Knicks engage in the brand of "hero ball" that turned off so many fans before Lin's arrival last season.
In New York, nothing is worse than being second-best.
The Nets certainly did not come to the media capital of the world with a Brooklyn attitude. The franchise is not gulping Pabst Blue Ribbon, composting garbage or going vegan. No, King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov have ordered the Dom Perignon, thrown all their recyclables into Styrofoam trash cans and gotten a double order of veal, figuratively speaking. They traded for one of the highest-paid shooting guards in the game, re-signed a soon-to-be 30-year-old small forward in Gerald Wallace and made a push for Dwight Howard. (Maybe you heard about that.) In the meantime, they justified their prospect-purging trade two years ago by getting Williams to sign a five-year extension.
No hipster chic here. Just Broadway, all day — even more so than the neighbor that actually plays on Broadway.
The buzz in NYC until the ball goes up next fall will be around the Nets. The best player in the city (Williams) belongs to the Nets. The best coach in the city (Avery Johnson) belongs to the Nets. The trendiest logo belongs to the Nets (we said "trendiest," not "best"), as do the fresh new digs. Most fans, whether casual or seasoned, are much more interested in watching the Nets play this season than they are in watching the Knicks' torturous style.
The Nets are not championship contenders, of course. Not even close. Only by finally acquiring Howard can they possibly move into that echelon. But they can make a reasonable claim to having the league's best backcourt, and they are the top team in their home city. Just ask them.