J.R. Smith never refrains from speaking the truth. Ever.
Though many continue to question whether a Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks rivalry truly exists, Smith (via Fred Kerber of the New York Daily News), left little to the imagination when asked about it:
Anticipation has mounted for the fourth and final meeting between the Knicks and Nets this season. But no one has put a finger on this matchup like Smith has.
Of course these two teams hate each other. Brooklyn is attempting to move in on New York's turf, while the Knicks are what stands between the Nets and territorial glory.
Not even Joe Johnson (via USA Today), however, was prepared to be as blunt as Smith:
"We've got to go in there with the mind-frame that we understand it's going to be a hostile environment and some way, somehow we've got to come out of there on top," Nets guard Joe Johnson said. "They beat us the last two times and we owe them."
I'm not saying the Nets don't understand the gravity of this rivalry, because obviously, they do. But Smith isn't about to mince words about a "hostile environment." He's going to call it like he sees it. And he sees, he understands that these two organizations don't like each other.
J.R. is awesome. Like really awesome.
He added fuel to an already ferocious fire and refused to dance around the obvious while doing so. And for that, we owe him a thank you.
Much has been made of rivalries in the NBA being on life support; that players are now too chummy and amicable for there to be any legitimate grudges. But that's simply false.
Mutual acrimony is still a thing—if the stakes are high enough.
For Brooklyn and New York, the stakes are certainly high enough. We're talking about the battle of New York, here. We're talking about one team attempting to protect its name while another tries to lay claim to their turf.
And when you look at it from that perspective, how could these teams "like" each other?
Sure, they can respect one another, acknowledge that the other is talented. But they don't have to like each other. They can't. Not as long as so much is on the line.
As long as there are reputations to uphold and players like Smith willing to acknowledge the animosity that exists between two separate entities, rivalries will be alive and well.
None more so than the one between the Knicks and Nets.