Two franchises sharing a city and a tangled past offseason face off for the first time, with the Nets hosting the Knicks on Friday night.

Wednesday night’s loss in San Antonio was not the start to the season you dream of, yet it was hard to not be encouraged. The Knicks fought back from an early 16-point deficit thanks to David Fizdale’s starting lineup gaffe for a competitive and entertaining contest.

R.J. Barrett was the star of the night and is rapidly becoming a brighter beacon of hope for Knicks fans. In his first (real) game as a Knick the rookie out of Duke scored 21 points on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

But on to tonight. The Knicks will head to Brooklyn to face off with their crosstown rivals, the Nets. This was not truly considered a rivalry, mainly because there is no real history between the two. That changed when the Nets seemingly pulled Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving from under the Knicks’ rug.

With that in mind tonight’s game kicks off the first real chapter of the rivalry. How will it be written?


It’s not a hot take to say the Nets have enjoyed tormenting their big brother in recent months. As if signing Durant and Kyrie were not enough, the Nets will give out 10,000 Irving jerseys tonight, twisting the knife some more.

They brought in former longest-tenured ‘Bocker Lance Thomas, just to cut him, and were the closest team to sign Carmelo Anthony. There is even a rumor that they stole their graffiti “Statement” jersey concept from the Knicks too, which makes sense following the Knicks’ unveiling photoshoot.

At some point the Knicks have to clapback, and what better way than to spoil Kyrie Jersey Night?

Coming Out Strong

David Fizdale’s decision to start Allonzo Trier, placing Barrett at point guard, instead of starting Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., or Frank Ntilikina ended up being a laughably stupid move. Fizdale claimed no one won the point guard competition, and whoever does win it will have to “earn it.” 

Elfrid Payton got the message. While Ntilikina and Smith struggled mightily, Payton was fantastic—for real this time—in the opener. He had five steals, helped settle the team down after an atrocious start offensively, notching eight assists, and even made some buckets.

Payton should get the start and will have his hands full with Irving, who scored 50 points in a loss to the Timberwolves on Wednesday.

The Infirmary

Julius Randle sent a brief jolt of panic through Knicks Nation when he pulled up holding his leg going up for a rebound late in Wednesday’s game. Thankfully it was just a cramp. Randle will look to build off his strong debut in which he scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

To keep the good news coming, Mitchell Robinson is on track to make his season debut. Robinson missed the opener after spraining his ankle in practice Monday. The Knicks severely missed the second-year center’s rim protection, and now own the advantage in the frontcourt.

Spotlight: Elfrid Payton

Did Fizdale not start Elfrid in fear of backlash? If so, that is foolish. Whatever the reason was, Payton made his coach look smart for putting him in. He will have his hands full tonight with Kyrie.

Payton was strong defensively in San Antonio but did rack up five personal fouls in the midst of poking his five steals. Irving is a scoring savant who can dupe even the staunchest of defenders to making mistakes. Payton will be tasked with slowing him down. If he can, the Nets become considerably less dangerous and very beatable.

He came to New York to get his career on track. Payton can continue to do just that by securing the starting spot with a strong outing.

UPDATE: 6:10 p.m. EST.

Payton will indeed start for the Knicks against the Nets tonight. Mitchell Robinson makes his season debut, too, starting at center, per SNY’s Ian Begley.



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»READ: Best-case, worst-case scenarios for R.J. Barrett’s rookie season