Knicks vs. Bulls: A Rejuvenated Rivalry
Posted Apr 10 2007 1:04PM
Almost five years to the day after Ewing left the orange and blue, New York thought it had finally filled the hole created by his departure when the Illinois native and former Bulls lottery pick Eddy Curry agreed to a sign-and-trade that put him front and center at Madison Square Garden. One offseason earlier, the Bulls had signed then traded the talented Jamal Crawford to the Knicks.
Thanks in part to those deals, the Bulls have wrapped up their third consecutive postseason berth. The improvement has made them a premier destination for free agents. Four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace defected from Detroit last summer and gives Chicago a level of postseason credibility not known since No. 23 wore red and black. The Bulls are a contender now and their 46-32 record has them currently sitting at the No. 2 seed in the East.
Meanwhile, Curry has had a breakout year for New York, posting career highs in points (19.5), rebounds (7.1), and minutes (35.4) per game. He made a strong case for an All-Star spot, helped coach and general manager Isiah Thomas secure a contract extension and has kept the Knicks' playoff hopes afloat despite injuries to almost every other Knicks regulars; Stephon Marbury, Crawford, David Lee, Quentin Richardson and Steve Francis have all missed time during the stretch run.
But technically, the book cannot be closed on the deal that brought Curry to Gotham until after the 2007 Draft. One wrinkle of the trade agreement gives the Bulls the right to swap 2007 first-round picks with New York, and they will certainly do just that as they have clinched a better record -- and therefore a lower draft pick -- than the Knicks.
With New York four games behind the eighth-place Magic and only five games remaining, the Knicks pick -- if they end up in the Lottery -- could be as high as No. 1 overall in what is predicted to be a spectacular draft class. The quirk regarding the 2007 Draft ties the Knicks and Bulls together for the rest of this season and beyond.
This all sets the stage for Tuesday's showdown in the Windy City, when New York and Chicago square off with bragging rights – and the fate of the two draft picks – on the line. If the Bulls are able to defeat the Knicks and damage their playoff hopes, they will be essentially securing themselves a seat at the May 22 draft lottery. The Curry caveat adds a fun twist to what has been a top NBA rivalry.
A rivalry that, less than 10 years ago, captured the hearts of two of the three most populous cities in the United States.
A rivalry that manifested itself in the form of a playoff series five times in a six-year span.
A rivalry that is renewed with the recent cooperation.
A rivalry that will last well into the next decade.
The Knicks versus the Bulls.