Affordability, and Stadium experience.
That's not great, and it represents a step back from 17 in 2013 (but up from 21 in 2012). But the New York Knicks are last, at 30, sliding from 24 in 2013 and 27 in 2012. (The San Antonio Spurs are tops.)
In fact, among the 122 teams in the four major leagues, the Nets rank 76, while the Knicks are 121, with both teams falling in the rankings but the Knicks falling further.
That means the Knicks--though they reliably fill Madison Square Garden--leave opportunities to poach their fan base.
For the record, the New York Islanders rank, as antiquated Nassau Coliseum is judged absolutely last in the category of Stadium experience.
The Barclays Center, ranking 37 in Stadium experience for the Nets, will surely offer a bump up when the Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015, but the configuration is somewhat awkward for hockey in a basketball-centric arena, so I suspect the Islanders' score on that measure will be lower.
Nets rise as New York's team
Last year's ranking: 71ESPN on the Knicks: No. 121
Title track: 86
Fan relations: 66
Stadium experience: 37
Bang for the buck: 66
The Nets are the basketball kings of New York! Granted, Mikhail Prokhorov and a team of four other random Russian oligarchs could have beaten the Knicks last year, but it was quite the statement when the Nets' billionaire owner hung a 22-story, 21,375-square-foot Nets billboard near Madison Square Garden, featuring his own cheeky grin. Knicks owner James Dolan felt so bullied that he ran to the commish to broker some kindergarten justice.
The Nets shelled out a record $90-plus million in luxury tax last season, managed to procure Busta Rhymes and Mike D for pregame intros, and even signed Andrei Kirilenko to a deal that had NBA execs crying conspiracy. Unfortunately that kind of dough -- or really, any type of dough -- didn't trickle down to the fans. The Nets have some of the most expensive cheap seats in the league, and the sixth-priciest tickets overall (only the Knicks, Heat, Bulls, Celtics and L.A. teams are more expensive). And while Brooklyn advanced to the conference semifinals, the Toronto series left the Nets exposed. A headline on the back of the Toronto Sun tabloid read: Raptors vs. Dinosaurs (pictured: Paul Pierce and KG), and beneath it the line, "Garnett & Pierce are so old the Raptor had to ask his dad about them." And Deron Williams' face was popping up on Have You Seen This Person fliers outside the Barclays Center. The reward: $63,128,400. Although the biggest dis was reserved for Brooklyn's fans. Sparked by Toronto's crowd, the Nets' official Twitter account proclaimed: "#Nets fans take note -- this is what a playoff crowd sounds like ... set your DVD and take notes." (An apology soon followed).
The Nets may be Kings of New York, but it wouldn't hurt if they set their sights a little higher
Zen Master Phil Jackson is reinventing more than the Knicks' roster
Last year's ranking: 102
Title track: 112
Fan relations: 122
Stadium experience: 91
Bang for the buck: 115
The Knicks need a new outlook -- a dose of Eastern Conference philosophy from newly hired team president Phil Jackson; the Zen Master has been tasked with turning around the franchise's fortunes in his front-office debut. But can a man with more rings than fingers still point at the moon? Whoa. Deep. If glory is truly found in rising after a fall, last year's 37-win flop (after 54 wins in 2012-13) presents nothing but opportunity. And seeming to believe that only the hand that erases can write the true thing, Jackson fired much-maligned coach Mike Woodson and overhauled the roster.
Across the board, our rankings provide Jackson with a wealth of opportunity: The Knicks fell in each of the eight categories and by at least 20 spots in six of them. First on Jackson's to-do list should be teaching star forward Carmelo Anthony that the most important thing is to know what is the most important thing, after Melo took a lucrative deal to continue jacking 39 shots a game. But the one-man show needs help; the Knicks rank dead last in players, as Jackson waits for roughly $20 million in cap space that's due to open up next summer.
The Knicks must also remember that if they take care of fans, fans will take care of them. The team came in last in fan relations and second to last in affordability (a ticket 2.5 times the league average doesn't help) and rank in the bottom eight in bang for the buck and ownership. Yeah, that ownership. The meddlesome James Dolan has promised to stay out of Jackson's way when it comes to basketball decisions, because just as Jackson will rely on his time-proven method, Dolan must give it time to work. After all, only the wisest and most dull-witted are unchangeable.