Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — While some of his Knicks teammates are downplaying the team’s first game in Brooklyn Monday night, Carmelo Anthony is embracing the big moment.
Anthony, after all, was born in Brooklyn and says the first Knicks-Nets game in the Barclays Center will be especially meaningful.
“If we don’t get up for this game, then I don’t know what game we’ll get up for,” Anthony said after scoring a game-best 29 points as the Knicks routed the Detroit Pistons, 121-100, Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s an in-city game, New York versus Brooklyn. For me, going back home, going back to that borough, playing my first game over there, is a very special moment for myself.”
The Knicks-Nets affair was supposed to kick off the season for both teams on Nov. 1, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.
Instead, the Knicks (9-3) opened at home a day later with a 20-point blowout of the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, while the Nets (8-4) opened the Barclays Center Nov. 3 with a 107-100 win over Toronto.
Now the two teams are a combined 17-7 after Brooklyn beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 98-85, on Sunday and the Knicks crushed Detroit.
“I’ll be clear-minded, clear-headed [Monday],” Anthony said. “Just to step on that court,though, and see the Brooklyn logo on that basketball court, I’ll feel like I’m home.”
The Knicks are a perfect 5-0 at their real home, and 4-3 away from the Garden.
While it remains unclear how the crowd will be split between Knicks and Nets fans, Anthony said he will interpret any “Brook-lyn” chants as calls for support for him.
“Sometimes when they scream Brooklyn in the crowd, watching the games it kind of gives me a little bit goosebumps just to hear that,” Anthony said.
Still, while much has been made of a burgeoning rivalry between the two teams since the Nets left New Jersey for Brooklyn, Tyson Chandler isn’t buying it.
“You know I’ve been saying consistently that a rivalry comes through playoffs and hard fought games,” Chandler said. “It just doesn’t come from a team moving and two teams being good in one year.
“It has to go through a history…I honestly don’t buy all that much into the whole situation. I don’t consider it a rivalry. There hasn’t been enough. I honestly have more animosity toward the Heat and the Celtics than the Nets.”
Rasheed Wallace agreed.
“Y’all like to talk about it as a rivalry, but it’s not,” he said after scoring 15 points in the win. “It would have been different if they were here a couple years ago, then moved to Jersey and came back. But it’s no rivalry. You gotta give it some games first, give it a few years first before y’all can call it a rivalry.”
Knicks forward Steve Novak agreed there was no rivalry yet but compared the fan interest to two college powers on Tobacco Road.
“It’s kind of like Duke-North Carolina,” he said after scoring 18 points on 5-of-7 3-pointers. “You know, they’re so close, that’s what makes it so special. Two good teams that are right down the street from each other. To me I think it’s the fans, just New York, that makes it special so far even though it hasn’t begun.”
Knicks backup center Marcus Camby said he expected Knicks fans to turn out big for the games against the Nets at the Garden.
“I’m sure they’re going to have some fans there [at Barclays Center] but I know when they come here we’re going to have all the fans,” Camby said. “That’s what matters.”
The teams play again three more times in the race for Atlantic Division supremacy — Dec. 11 in Brooklyn and then Dec. 19 and Jan. 21 at the Garden.
“It’s another game for us,” Anthony said of Monday. “I don’t really want to put too much emphasis on the game. We want to win, we’re going over there to win. It’s a divisional game, so we know the importance of each game in our division. And our goal is winning our division.”
**For Video, Notes & Quotes on the game from NBA.com, click here.
Photo: Daily News
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.