Knicks: Could A Rivalry In The NBA D-League Be Formed?

Apr 1, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) defended by Brooklyn Nets guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Nets 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) defended by Brooklyn Nets guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Nets 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

While the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have an established rivalry, could their D-League affiliates form a rivalry next season?

When the New York Mets and New York Yankees face off against each other, there’s a sense of a rivalry. Even though the two teams are in different leagues, there’s always a battle to find out who the best team in New York is.

A Mets-Yankees rivalry is so deep that it can even trickle down to their minor league teams.

A rivalry of that nature keeps fans invested in the team’s farm system and could even attract new fans. That’s one thing that separates the MiLB (MLB’s minor league) and the NBA D-League.

While it’s intriguing to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics battle, it can be hard for the common fan to invest their time into watching their D-League affiliates compete.

The two teams have been rivals for decades, but not many fans are tuning in to a game between the Los Angeles D-Fenders and Maine Red Claws.

With the Long Island Nets entering the D-League this upcoming season, would it be interesting to see Long Island battle the Westchester Knicks?

Could the two teams even form a rivalry?

When it comes to the NBA or MLB, it’s easier for two teams to form a rivalry compared to the minor league. Throughout a given season, a minor league system can see a lot of change, especially a D-League team.

In terms of rivalries, some are built off proximity—the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, for instance. These kind of rivalries could have longevity compared to a rivalry between two teams who compete against each other in high-profile matchups for a few years.

The Cyclones-Yankees rivalry is always an exciting match-up, whether it’s for the players or the fans. For the players, it can be a little different. Not only are the players battling for supremacy, but Brooklyn and Staten Island are two of five teams that are fighting for the division crown.

Bubba Jones, who was a part of the 2013 and 2014 Staten Island Yankees, understood the rivalry from the player and fan perspective.

"“Love it, the fans love it,” Jones said on the rivalry. “All the guys like each other, but on the field, it’s a battle and it’s a good battle to watch.”"

Brooklyn and Staten Island met 14 times during the 2014 season, so it gave the two teams an opportunity to develop a rivalry. The players and fans are invested in the rivalry, which made each of their 14 meetings worth watching.

The Cyclones and Yankees usually open the season and close out the season against each other. Opening day in itself is exciting, but if the two teams are in the hunt for the playoffs at the end of the season, the matchup is must-see.

Even though Westchester had a taste of a rivalry with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, it’s something that can’t be compared to a rivalry between two local teams.

Last season, the Westchester Knicks faced the Sioux Falls Skyforce four times in the regular season, which included three straight meetings—January 29, January 30, and February 5. The Knicks won two of those three meetings.

The Skyforce had a record-setting season, as Sioux Falls went 40-10. In the 10 games the Skyforce lost, three of those losses were at the hands of the Knicks. When the first-round of the 2016 playoffs was set, there was excitement in Westchester since the team held the season series advance. Along with that, Game 1 of the playoffs was held in Westchester, which was beneficial for the Dub Knicks.

That wasn’t the case.

The Knicks had issues stopping the 2016 D-League MVP, Jarnell Stokes. In the first game, Stokes was a force along the interior. In addition, the Tennessee product tallied two double-doubles in the series and maintained his dominance throughout Sioux Falls’ championship run.

Even though the Knicks were swept by the eventual NBADL champions, it was a battle that was exciting to watch. The Skyforce were an improved team compared to their first meeting on November 20, 2015.

While it wasn’t a rivalry like the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, the fans were intrigued by every meeting. 1,523 fans attending their first meeting in November of 2015 and 2,096 fans enjoyed their final encounter in the NBADL playoffs in April of 2016.

The Long Island Nets will be one of three teams that will be entering the D-League next season. If the past reflects the future, one of those three new teams should do well during their inaugural season.

Out of the past three expansion teams—Maine Red Claws, Westchester Knicks, and Raptors 905—two of those teams (Maine and Raptors 905) won at least 23 games in their first season. The Red Claws won 27 games in 2009-10 and the 905 won 23 games in 2015-16.

If the Nets can be like the Red Claws or 905, then the Knicks-Nets matchups at the end of the season could draw in more fans.

There’s no question the two teams will have competitive games when they face off. Not only are the players competing for roster spots, but the teams could be competing to prove who is the best team in New York.

Westchester and Long Island will meet on December 26, March 14, March 16, and April 1.

The end goal is for Westchester and Long Island to develop a rivalry similar to their NBA affiliates. Not only does it add more intrigue to each matchup, but it could catch the eye of a Knicks or Nets fan who hasn’t seen much of the D-League.

The D-League is on the rise and a New York-Long Island rivalry would only add more interest to the league.

More fans would flock to the arenas and more would buy into the product. After seeing the New York Islanders leave town, Long Islanders are ready to support their own team.

The Nets will move to the Nassau Coliseum for the start of the 2017-18 season.

Related Story: Westchester Knicks: Five Reasons To Sign Chaz Williams

Only time will tell if these two teams will develop a rivalry. That time will start on December 26, 2016.

For the basketball fans in New York, that’s a great Christmas gift to look forward to.