- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Knicks-Nets may not be much of a rivalry on the basketball court, but it's alive and well in the teams' front offices.
The Knicks recently released a radio ad tweaking the Nets, stating "Hey Nets. You can walk like us, you can talk like us, but you ain't never gonna be like us."
On Tuesday morning, hours before the Nets traveled across the Hudson River to take on the Knicks at the Garden, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov responded to the radio spot.
"I don't think we want to be like the Knicks. I think we'd more like to resemble the Lakers," the first-year owner said in a statement released by the Nets.
"The Knicks seem to be spending a lot of time thinking about us lately," added Nets CEO Brett Yormark. "They must have seen the steel rise at the Barclays Center last week."
The back-and-forth between marketing departments has been going on since early July.
On the eve of the free-agent signing period, the Nets unveiled a 227-foot billboard near Madison Square Garden that featured Prokhorov and part-owner Jay-Z standing underneath the headline "The Blueprint for Greatness."
A few days before their opener, the Knicks responded with billboards featuring Amare Stoudemire on buildings near the Nets' yet-to-be constructed arena in Brooklyn.
"We ran some ads, they ran some ads, it's just an ad-fest," Nets point guard Devin Harris said Tuesday morning.
Harris later added that he appreciated Prokhorov's response to the Knicks' radio ad.
"It gives us confidence. [You] know that he's going to back us no matter what," he said. "He's proud of his product and we want to give him something to be proud of."
The battle between the teams' marketing departments masks the fact that there isn't much of an on-court rivalry between the two.
Most players are new to their respective rosters this season; the Nets brought back just four players from last year's roster and the Knicks have just five back from last year.
Nets coach Avery Johnson downplayed any notion that the Nets look at the Knicks as rivals.
"Even though people say it's a rivalry, right now the focus for our team is one day being a world champion," the first-year coach said. "It's not a regional focus for us. It may be for other people. But for us, it's how we get better so that one day we can be one of the better teams in the NBA."
"Whatever happens tonight, it's not going to destroy our program," he added. "We win the game, it's not an NBA Championship tonight."
When asked about Prokhorov's comments, Johnson pointed out that he'd worked for a brash owner in the past in Mavs owner Mark Cuban.
"I've seen it before," he joked, before adding that he appreciated Prokhorov's public defense of the Nets.
"Mikhail has a lot of confidence in what we're doing," he said.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
20mMichael C. Wright