Through 21 games, Knicks fans have enjoyed, higher energy, ball movement, and defense, but are missing one key thing: a true rivalry.
If you’re not a New York Knicks fan and don’t know much about Knicks-Pacers rivalry during the 1990s, just watch the 30 for 30: When the Garden was Eden. Fans still long for those ’90s’ Knicks who made the postseason consistently and hung their hat on hard-nosed play. But truth be told, they also miss the rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and epic games against the villainous Reggie Miller.
Looking forward, the Philadelphia 76ers have all the ingredients needed to become a legendary rival for the Knicks. Both teams are up-and-coming threats in the Eastern Conference with young and promising talent. Both teams are still building their identity and, interestingly enough, both teams have some charismatic and fiery personalities leading the way.
This year’s Christmas Day matchup between the New York Knicks and 76ers will be the first installment of long and storied rivalry.
Trust the Process vs. Trust the Progress
If Sam Hinkie was sacrificed for Philly’s sins, then fans can rest easy knowing that his process has left the 76ers stocked with a bevy of talent including Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and last year’s number one draft pick, Markelle Fultz.
Although Fultz has run into some disappointing injuries and Jahlil Okafor continues to rack up DNP’s, the 76ers are 12-9 and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. And while the youth movement continues to excite the fan base, management has also brought in productive veterans like J.J. Reddick, Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson.
Looking further into the future, it’s hard to believe this team won’t be playing important games in April for years to come. The 76ers will have at least one first-round pick through the 2021 season.
Likewise, if Hinkie became a cult hero for the 76ers, although less likely, Phil Jackson may receive similar acclaim in New York. The Knicks are moving forward with Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez and Frank Ntilikina. Despite Hernangomez’s struggles, he is still seen as a talented young big man with polished post moves.
Prior to Jackson’s exit, there were rumors that the 11-time world champion was considering trading Porzingis. That, in addition to his handling of the Carmelo Anthony situation, will always leave fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. Yet, this combination of young talent and Jeff Hornacek’s free-flowing offense have led the young Knicks to an 11-10 record and promising wins against the Cavaliers, Raptors, and Clippers.
Like the 76ers, the Knicks also own their share of first-round draft picks through the 2021 season. Additionally, the Knicks are poised to be major players in free agency during the summer of 2019.
Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy
Every rivalry needs those special talents that matchup against each other, but they also need those combustible personalities that bring fans to the edge of their seats and inspire screaming matches at every local sports bar.
Although he does not have strong roots in New York, Enes Kanter is quickly becoming a fan favorite. During a home loss to the Cavaliers, Kanter quickly came to the defense of rookie Frank Ntilikina after a brief run-in with LeBron James.
Furthermore, after an emotional game. Kanter told reporters, per ESPN’s Dave McNenamin:
“I’ll tell you one thing, this team is really special. And you’re not going to come into my house playing the water bottle flip game again. What do you call yourself, ‘King,’ ‘Queen,’ ‘Princess,’ whatever you are. We’re going to fight. Nobody out there gonna punk us.”
Kanter, who has had verbal spats with both the President of Turkey and LeBron James, will not likely be tight-lipped when Joel Embiid and the 76ers come to town.
Like Kanter, Embiid has been a lightning rod in the media but has also backed up his talk on the court. Embiid has gone toe-to-toe with Draymond Green and routinely tells opposing players that they can’t guard him.
Embiid further highlighted his flair for back-and-forth banter after responding to ESPN analyst Jalen Rose’s criticism regarding a perceived inappropriate comment towards a female reporter. Embiid stated that he was at “69 percent” when asked about his conditioning level. Rose and other analysts felt the comment was inappropriate.
Later, while on Sportscenter, Embiid updated his status, stating he was at “81 percent”, clearly a shot at Jalen Rose, who was on the receiving end of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors.
Embiid: “I’m at 81%, shoutout Jalen Rose” ??☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️ (h/t @RealMattCarey cc @johnwintertweet) pic.twitter.com/uEsAns9Mww
— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) November 22, 2017
With both teams on the rise towards relevance in the NBA landscape, the Christmas Day matchup promises to be very entertaining. Fans will salivate at the chance to see Ntilikina guarding Ben Simmons and Porzingis battling with Embiid in the post. This rivalry will captivate the cities of New York and Philadelphia for years to come.