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NBA

A Tale of Two Cities: The Start Heard ‘Round the Boroughs’ – The Knicks and Nets both are in search of an identity as the season begins.

RJ Barrett and Kyrie Irving
(NBA Getty Images)

The Knicks and Nets both had certain expectations as the season began. For the Knicks, a slow beginning was expected, however, not THIS slow. As of November 5, the Knicks had one win, against the rebuilding Bulls. The Knicks' 1-7 start is the worst since the 2009-10 Season.

One bright spot has been the play of R.J. Barrett who is among the rookie leaders for points, rebounds, assists, and steals. With Zion Williamson suffering an early-season injury setback, Barrett is among the betting favorites for Rookie of the Year.

Barrett will have to improve certain areas of his game including his 47.6% free-throw shooting if he anticipates maximizing his potential in clutch time, but all signs so far point to the Knicks finally having a piece they can build around. Much like a silver lining to a cloud, there is a likely storm brewing despite the optimism surrounding the rookie.

The next few games will be a walk down memory lane as the Knicks take on former building block Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks twice in the matter of a week. As it stands, Porzingis will be making his debut as a visitor to Madison Square Garden on November 14.

MORE: Tale of two cities - Preseason edition

New York fans will likely have a mixed reaction but with the birth of a new star in Barrett, along with strong support pieces in Elfrid Payton, Kevin Knox, as well as Julius Randle, the Knicks can at least say they have moved on from Porzingis. Just like attending a party where an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend may be present, the Knicks can find comfort by showing off their new players.

The Knicks, on a good day, should be able to keep pace through the 3rd quarter against most teams. However, on a bad day, they can get blown out at home. Such was the case this past Sunday as the Sacramento Kings thumped the Knicks by 21. The crosstown rivals have not fared too much better.

The Nets started the season going 1-3 with their only win against the aforementioned Knicks. Part of their struggles were due to Ja Morant and the Grizzlies' last-minute heroics.

The Nets recently had an impressive win against the Houston Rockets as Kyrie Irving was able to stave off MVPs Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

That said, when they played the Rockets, there were significant cheers for the road team which begs the question of whether Brooklyn has fully captured the home crowd. Part of the fans' reactions could be due to the popularity of Harden and Westbrook who only play in Brooklyn once a year. Nevertheless, the Brooklyn faithful showed their support in the final few minutes cheering for each Nets bucket as celebrities such as Marlon Wayans, Common, Meek Mill, and others looked on.

In fact, celebrity row at Nets' games are beginning to be what the Knicks once were. Even without Jay-Z's ownership and presence, the stars seem to be embracing the new-look Nets. The Nets may have also been inspired by Coach Kenny Atkinson's new approach of calling plays with play cards on the sidelines.

Coach Atkinson explained the play cards were "just a defensive coverage we have. We've had trouble communicating it to the guys in the past...Sometimes you have a little humor in things and it syncs in with the guys."

As fun as the new play call strategy was, the Nets didn't do themselves any favors losing in Detroit the next day, however, they returned home on Monday and took care of business against the Zionless-Pelicans. It's still too early to determine if the Nets or Knicks are real playoff threats.

Kyrie Irving's ability might be enough alone to carry a team to the playoffs and even a playoff series win. Kyrie is no stranger to being the alpha-dog for a struggling team. The Cleveland Cavaliers were led by Kyrie between 2011-2014 and won an average of 26 games in the three seasons he was the top dog. Then LeBron joined. And they won a championship.

Kyrie would, of course, go on to join the Boston Celtics before signing with the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie actually has an opportunity to silence any doubters that question his ability to lead by simply making the Nets a cohesive, competitive bunch.

If Irving is unsuccessful and then Kevin Durant returns to fill the void, then Kyrie maybe once again labeled as the Robin to someone else's Batman. Only time will tell whether the Nets and Kyrie Irving are destined to be the face of New York basketball, however, a playoff-run is a good start.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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