I know, what a concept!
The Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders aren’t exactly the marquee franchises in the city.
I know that’s a statement that will bother both fan bases, but it’s a simple reality.
New York City as a whole is going to be categorized as a Knicks and Rangers town.
Both franchises at Madison Square Garden usually draw the attention of the city’s sports fans, but not this spring.
After a good run of playoff appearances, the Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild, and the Knicks have been rebuilding for the better part of two decades.
The futility at Madison Square Garden opens the door for the Nets and the Islanders to grab the spotlight and to captivate the imagination of the city.
The Islanders have been an incredible story all year.
Despite the fact the Islanders lost the face of the franchise in John Tavares, they’ve been a much improved hockey team.
Why? It’s all about culture.
The Islanders were smart enough to hire longtime executive Lou Lamoriello and a Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz to run the franchise.
It was the best money the franchise could ever spend. Lamoriello and Trotz have instantly changed the culture out on Long Island.
The Islanders defend, play together and are as tough as nails. It’s a style and an identity that has them one win away from the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Not bad for a team that missed the playoffs a year ago.
A culture change has certainly been present with the Brooklyn Nets, although unlike the Islanders it was not instantaneous.
The Nets were in NBA hell as a franchise. No draft picks, minimal salary cap, and not a whole lot of hope.
To their credit, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have done a phenomenal job in turning the sourest of lemons into lemonade.
The Nets have done a fantastic job of developing mid-tier talent.
They were smart enough to buy low on players such as Deangelo Russell, and then did a fantastic job of allowing Russell to live up to his potential as a player.
Russel went from lottery bust with the Lakers to All-Star guard with the Nets.
The long and winding road has the Nets back in the postseason for a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.
But due to the nature of their respective sports, it’s far more probable to expect a run out of the Islanders than the Nets.
However, two of New York’s forgotten should be applauded. They’ve exceeded expectations, played a winning style of basketball and hockey, and have been able to squeeze every last ounce out of their talent.
For that, the Islanders and the Nets should be commended, and at least for this spring, enjoy the spotlight that comes with taking center stage.
You can listen to me on Friday from 2 to 6 a.m. and post Yankees until 2 a.m.), Sunday from 1 to 6 a.m. & Monday from 2 to 6 a.m. on WFAN Sports Radio 660/1019 FM. You can also watch me on the Thread Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday at 5 p.m. & Saturday at 11 p.m. on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.