RJ: 'There was only one team in town'

(Re-posted from our Nets blog.)

The rivalry between the Knicks and Nets may be as hot as it has ever been this season.

But Richard Jefferson says there was no doubt in his mind that the Nets ran New York when he, Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin had their high-wire act going in the early-to-mid 2000s.

“When the Knicks were done and they weren’t in the playoffs and the one year they did make the playoffs while we were there, we swept them out,” Jefferson said earlier this week. “As far as a dominance thing, there was only Nets basketball.

"I don’t care if there is one Garden, when we were there, there was only one team in town and that was the Nets.”

The Nets were a nightly highlight machine with Kidd lobbing alley oops to Martin and Jefferson. But they saved some of their best for the New York Knicks.

After playing before mostly half-empty home crowds at the Meadowlands, the Nets took great delight whenever playing the Knicks on the Madison Square Garden stage.

“This is when the Nets and Knicks rivalry was high and not because the Knicks were good,” Jefferson said. “It was mainly because the Knicks sucked.”

They took great joy in sticking it to the Knicks. But those Nets really loved the crowd, the unique lighting and the big-game buzz at MSG. Most of the Nets then would never admit it publicly, but they would have loved playing their brand of basketball before the Garden. And they knew that even Knicks fans had to respect and appreciate the show they would put on sometimes there.

“I don’t care,” said Jefferson, now with the Jazz. “As long as I live, Knicks fans love me and hate me because they respected everything that we did.”

During one game at the Garden, Kidd was basically putting together a personal highlight reel. He delivered one of his most memorable passes as a Net, one that ranks behind the unforgettable bowling ball pass he once rolled across halfcourt toward Lucious Harris with enough backspin to slow down for Harris to scoop up for a layup in a game against the Knicks at the Meadowlands.

But this one pass at the Garden was the best pass Jefferson said he had ever caught from the point guard. Martin threw a quick outlet pass to Kidd, who was near halfcourt already looking to start a break. Instead of catching the outlet, Kidd, with his back turned to Jefferson, tapped a no-look pass by his head to a streaking Jefferson, who caught it near the free throw line on his way for an easy dunk.

Jefferson actually began to laugh as he caught the ball because of how ridiculous the pass was.

“I was like, don’t miss this because this is going to be a SportsCenter top-10 play,” Jefferson said. “Guys would see SportsCenter and see his highlights and don’t understand that was an everyday thing for seven years in practice. He would give you four or five passes that you never ever seen before. It was absurd.”

“We were just putting on a show,” Jefferson continued. “We were clowning people. J-Kidd threw one off the glass to Kenyon and you heard a Nets chant in the Garden. That was the most disrespectful thing.”

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