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Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson grew up on Long Island, and he knows the history of sports rivalries across the bridges and through the tunnels. He knows about the great Rangers-Islanders playoff battles of his childhood, about baseball’s Subway Series, and about the fits and starts of manufacturing an interborough N.B.A. rivalry.

And Atkinson knows that the Nets and the Knicks at this point aren’t rivals, at least competitively speaking.

“I keep saying I hope as we keep growing that both programs keep growing,” Atkinson said before the Nets’ home opener Friday night against the Knicks at Barclays Center. “That we’re both good, and this becomes even more fierce and more important as the years go on.”

But until then it will be a race to see which team can win 30 games first. Or which rookie makes the biggest impact. Or which rebuilding project turns its blueprint into reality first.

Knicks Coach David Fizdale is a West Coast guy, but he gets it as well. “I think both of our teams need to start winning a lot more before we call this a serious rivalry,” Fizdale said before the game. “You got to earn that. I know how Coach Atkinson is. He’s just like me. We’re about earning our stuff and pushing the guys to do it the right way.”

“We’ve got to get to a point,” he added, “where our teams are playing the kind of basketball that deserves a rivalry.”

In other words, Friday night’s game was destined to be more measured than passionate, friendly instead of venomous. Two teams on the same track. Rooting for each other, even.

“Obviously when we’re not playing, I’m rooting for a New York team,” Fizdale said. Which makes sense, since a rivalry requires both teams to be good; there needs to be more to look forward to than a quick ride home for the visiting team.

“They have to be good at the same time,” the former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “Being bad at the same time doesn’t help. Now it’s a race to see who can get significantly better quicker. It will be great if both teams get there together. This should be a series in which the city is on fire four times a season.”

In Van Gundy’s opinion, the Knicks have the easier climb — a foundation player in Kristaps Porzingis, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament; a potential star in Enes Kanter; and perhaps another in the rookie Kevin Knox.

“The Nets are behind the eight ball,” Van Gundy said. “No, make it the 15th ball. That one trade made it so hard for so long. They don’t have the foundation.”

He was referring to the Nets’ forsaking their future for the past with the 2013 trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from Boston to Brooklyn. The Nets gave up three first-round picks in hopes of forming a superteam that never came close to materializing.

And now, in their seventh season as Brooklyn’s team, working under their sixth coach since they left New Jersey, they are … well, see Van Gundy’s comment.

But Atkinson, in his third season as the coach, chose to focus on what might be, the possibility of real N.B.A. battles between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“It’s great for the city of New York, it’s great for the Nets, it’s great for the Knicks, it’s great for the fans,” he said. “It’s what it’s all about. These are special games.

“Why is it great? It’s Manhattan, Brooklyn. It’s a rivalry: Mets-Yankees, Rangers-Islanders. There’s only a few cities like this where you have a couple of pro teams in the area. Right across a bridge from each other. I love it.”

Friday night’s game, a 107-105 Nets win on Caris LeVert’s layup with a second left, may have been another installment in the faux rivalry, but perhaps it was also a hint of what’s to come.

As soon as the arena announcer introduced the “crosstown rival,” several rows of fans in Nets jerseys tried to drown out the names on the Knicks roster with a singsong cheer of “Brooook-lyn, Brooook-lyn.”

Before tipoff, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie took the microphone and addressed the nearly full house.

“We’re excited, we hope you are, too,” Dinwiddie said. The speech certainly fell short of the pot-stirring comments he made in the preseason, when he said the Nets are “better than the Knicks.”

At the time, he questioned why anybody would think otherwise: “We had almost the same record last year, and their best player is not going to be playing until like February,” he said.

On Friday, the rivalry talk was milder.

“It comes down to pride,” said Knicks forward Lance Thomas, who grew up in both New York and New Jersey. “Who wants to take ownership of being the better team in New York? Once the programs get rolling, people will be like, ‘All right, we’re the better team.’ It will increase as both programs figure things out.”

As the players readied for the 192nd regular-season meeting between the two franchises, the song “Purple Lamborghini” by Skrillex and Rick Ross blared throughout the arena.

“Forgive me for my wrongs, I have just begun,” went the refrain, fittingly so.

After Levert’s layup, the all-time record between the two franchises was 98-94, Knicks. Almost even. Which seems about right.

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