The Knicks and Nets scrapped in Brooklyn on Friday in the first of four regular-season grudge matches. It stood as the Nets’ home opener, but usually the arena turns into Barclays Square Garden.
Both New York teams likely will strive for 30-win seasons. Both are expected to miss the playoffs together for the fourth straight year, which has never before happened.
“I think both of our teams have to start winning a lot more before we start calling this a serious rivalry,’’ Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “You got to earn that.”
No one gets it more than the Nets’ coach, Long Island-bred Kenny Atkinson.
“Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Islanders, there’s only a few cities you got a couple of pro teams,’’ Atkinson said. “Right across the bridge, the river. I keep saying I hope as we keep growing, both programs keep growing and we’re both good and it becomes even more fierce and more important.’’
They will have to settle for competing in a bigger way in May, June and July — the offseason.
The Nets, after being in ping-pong ball prison following their trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, have been released and will be allowed onto the lottery dais in Midtown.
Nets general manager Sean Marks and Knicks GM Scott Perry likely will host the May festivities, then try to outsmart one another on draft night. And then comes July’s fun. The Nets will have room for two maximum players — if they don’t place cap holds on Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
The Knicks almost have room for one maximum contract and should be able to re-sign Kristaps Porzingis and go over the salary cap. As a fallback, the Knicks could go after Dinwiddie. They inquired about the point guard at last February’s deadline, but found the cost too high, according to a source. They settled for Emmanuel Mudiay.
What would really incite the rivalry is if the Nets make a play for Porzingis — at least getting the 7-foot-3 Latvian to visit their practice campus alongside Buttermilk Channel. The Nets have one Latvian big man already in rookie Rodions Kurucs, a second-rounder showing promise.
The Knicks could match any Nets offer sheet for their restricted free agent, but it could cause them to tie up their cap for a couple of days.
Another scenario that would break owner James Dolan’s heart could be Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn in July, a disgruntled Porzingis signing a one-year deal with the Knicks and then joining Irving in Kings County in 2020 as an unrestricted free agent.
When Porzingis skipped his 2017 exit meeting and was ready to fly to Latvia, he told The Post he wasn’t going to ask for a trade, saying, “I love New York.’’ He didn’t say Manhattan.
More likely, the Nets and Knicks will compete for Irving and Kevin Durant. The Knicks and Nets travel this same uncertain path of learning through losing, looking at a 2019 lottery pick and maybe free-agent glitter.
It’s tough to say who has the better young corps to attract free agents.
If Porzingis were healthy, there wouldn’t be a question. There’s no way to chart, graph or predict when Porzingis will play again, or for which team in 2020.
The Knicks expect it to be this season, and it’s important for that to happen so he can grow his game and become “a magnet’’ for free agents — as Mills called him recently.
Charles Barkley said it’s better if Porzingis misses the season to ensure a better draft pick, but he’s wrong. Going 20 months without playing an NBA game isn’t good for a 23-year-old budding star.
Missing the season still seems unlikely. Just as unlikely as Porzingis bolting for Brooklyn — a stunner that would certainly enliven a dead rivalry.
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