Nets and Clippers looking to rule their respective cities

The changing of the guard might be taking place on both the east and west coast. For years, the New York Knicks have ruled the Big Apple, while the Lakers have run Hollywood.

However, those days might be ending with the Brooklyn Nets investing millions in a new arena and new players and the Los Angeles Clippers investing in a new head coach and re-signing one of the best point guards in the NBA.

Both the Knicks and Lakers have been the league’s two most valuable franchises, but the pressure is being put on both by their inter-city rivals once the laughingstocks of the division, but now legitimate contenders to win.

The deep pockets of Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov have built the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn and just next season could be paying out over $70 million in just luxury tax for the additions made to the team roster during the offseason.

On paper, the Nets look to have moved past the Knicks for contenders to the Eastern Conference and NBA title. Paul Pierce, one of the newest Nets said it was obvious his dislike for the Knicks while a Boston Celtic, but that has moved up to another level since being traded to the Nets.

The spotlight will be shining on Brooklyn this fall with the likes of Pierce and former Boston teammate Kevin Garnett joining the Nets and their array of stars like Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.

In Los Angeles, the changing of the guard started last season when the Clippers won the Pacific division. With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin taking center stage and the addition of Doc Rivers to coach the Clippers, Kobe Bryant and his Lakers not only will be sharing the Staples Center, but the huge spotlight that shines above Tinsel Town.

In New York City, the Nets have started to gain some ground in taking away fans from the once impenetrable defenses of the Knicks. The Nets as far as merchandise sales have long been the doormat, but jumped to No. 4 with the change in color scheme to black and white and are now behind just the Knicks, Lakers and the Heat.

The Clippers remain No. 8 in merchandise sales, but the Clippers have joined the Heat as the only two teams in the league that have two players – Paul in 9th and Griffin in 10th – ranked in the top 10 in jersey sales.

Attendance is up for both the Nets and Clippers. Over the last three seasons the Nets played in New Jersey, they were 30th, 28th and again 30th in attendance. This past season they jumped up to 13th, their first year in Brooklyn and were out sold by the Knicks by only 75,000 for the entire season.

Following the acquisition by the Nets of Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry and the signing of Andrei Kirilenko, the Nets announced about 30 days ago it had sold another $3 million in new season tickets.

The Lakers have 16 NBA championship banners hanging from the rafters of the Staples Center, but the Clippers drew more fans over the past two seasons, while playing to over 100% capacity.

Forbes magazine has valued the Knicks at $1.1 billion and the Lakers at $1 billion as the only two franchises over a billion in value, but the Nets are now No. 9 at $530 million, an increase of 48%, while the Clippers are now worth $430 million, No. 18, and an increase of 33% from the previous year.

Watch out Knicks and Lakers, the changing of the guard is taking place.

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