From Madison Square Garden to the Garden State, the Knicks cast a shadow the Nets could never escape.

The Knicks were considered first rate and the Nets second class, even in years when the better team was in New Jersey. The Nets would watch fans in orange and blue take over their home games, believing all along things would be different when they finally got their shot at the Knicks in Brooklyn.

Well, here it comes.

The city rivals play the makeup of their postponed season opener on Monday, a matchup the Knicks insist is just another game but one that’s probably much bigger to the Nets.

”I think obviously being on center stage tomorrow night, all eyes on Brooklyn, truly makes this a very special night for us because it’s something that we worked for, for so long,” Nets CEO Brett Yormark said Sunday. ”Even though it’s not opening night, it’s a dramatic night. I mean, the Knicks are playing well, the Nets are playing well, Brooklyn’s certainly embraced this franchise, and I think tomorrow night is hopefully the start of some really special nights between the Nets and the Knicks.

”Yeah, I’d love to win the game, but it’s more than that. It’s about making a statement that this franchise has arrived and we are certainly part of the conversation when people are talking about pro basketball in New York.”

– Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press