Hurricane Sandy delayed the first meeting in Brooklyn between the Nets and Knicks, but that didn’t stop the two teams from putting on a show when they finally got to play on Monday night. The hometown Nets finally have a hometown crowd and it helped them prevail in overtime in a series that Nets coach Avery Johnson describes as a growing rivalry.
Avery Johnson joined ESPN New York with The Michael Kay Show to discuss the vibe of the first game in Brooklyn between the Nets and Knicks, the crowd at that game, if the series is a rivalry, the progression of Joe Johnson, the race in the Atlantic Division and just how good life is since the move to Brooklyn.
Did you feel Monday’s game at home against the Knicks had almost a playoff vibe to it?:
“It did, for an early regular-season game. It had that type of a vibe, and that was great. I think the more games that we play in like that, and if we can be successful and play good defense, and have some timely offense and win some of those games, I think it’s going to be good for us. … Obviously the house was packed. We obviously had more fans than Knicks fans. It was just fun to be a part of it.”
With the number of Knicks fans seen at Nets home games in the past, was it important for you to see that crowd?:
“It was important and it’s something we talked about. Our CEO, Brett Yormark, talked a lot about it in the offseason and I thought they did a great job, his whole team. You look at this roster that Billy King, our general manager, has put together, and it’s a roster of versatility and toughness and guys who are very coachable. It’s a team that we can just continue to get better and better.”
Do you believe that this is now a rivalry?:
“I think it’s growing into one. I don’t think you officially become a “rivalry” until you play in a playoff series, where it’s a knock-down, drag-out playoff series. But it’s better than it was in the past. The last two years, like we said, since I’ve been here, they’ve always dominated the headlines. And they were in the playoffs last year. … It’s turning. I think it’s going to grow and grow, more and more.”
Are you starting to see Joe Johnson fit in with his new team?:
“Before the season, when I was in our preseason coaches’ retreat meetings with our coaching staff, I thought it would be sometime around mid-December, into January, and he’s right on schedule. He’s had some games here recently where he shot the ball a little bit better. … Sometime around mid-December, he’s going to really kick it in gear.”
Is it basically a race between the Nets, Knicks and Celtics for the Atlantic Division?:
“No, I don’t think you can count out Philly. I know they’ve got some injuries, but our division is really, really a strong division. But right now, the three teams that you mentioned, they’re all playing pretty good basketball, especially for early in the season. I think it’s going to be a tough fight all year. … And, for us, we’re glad to be in the fight. We haven’t even been in the conversation.”
There was plenty of buildup leading to the move to Brooklyn, but with the roster and all that has been put together, is the situation even better than you were craving?:
“Absolutely. First of all, the men that I work with every day [are better]. … That’s a big part of it, the men that I’m working with every day. And then, like I said, I can’t say enough about our building. It’s like a palace. The basketball campus that we have that a lot of people don’t get a chance to see is pretty special. And then, on top of it, the energy that’s in the building for our team. … We can’t get enough of it. We love it, and that’s what a lot of other championship-caliber teams have.”