Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Knicks and Nets: The Not Ready For Prime Time Cagers

From the desks of:  

If futility ignited rivalries, 
this one would be a 3-alarm fire.

Like Two Bottle Rockets in the New York Night...

Remember how Carmelo Anthony's haste for leaving the Denver Nuggets, and seeking a max-contract before the league's new CBA kicked in (that would have otherwise reigned in his earning potential as a free agent) almost got him traded to the New Jersey Nets?

Remember how the Carmelo Anthony tug-o-war between the Nets and Knicks unfolded, or rather, how James Dolan trampled over Donnie Walsh in his own haste to intercept Carmelo?

Both teams were prepared to show Melo the money, so to say.  But the Knicks ultimately offered more players than could the Nets, and so on Feb. 22, 2011, Carmelo Anthony became a Knick.

That seemingly set the next day's headlines in stone - until the Nets secured guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz under cover of night.  In an astonishing turn of events, the Feb. 23rd morning tabloids proclaimed New Jersey's trade for a top point guard trumped New York's acquisition of a high scoring small forward.

Then came the Nets move into Brooklyn (Knicks' turf, the land of Bernard King), and an inevitable clash between owners James Dolan and Mikhail Prokhorov.  You might say Prokhorov stuck Dolan with a hot cattle prod when he first purchased billboard space two blocks from Madison Square Garden, and again when he decreed the Brooklyn Nets would win a championship within three short years.

The hardwood battle, however, was supposed to feature supreme two performances - the respective abilities of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams in leading their respective teams, and boroughs, to postseason glory.

In 2012-2013, the city got a small taste of what could potentially still become a furious inter-city rivalry (perchance to dream....).  The Knicks and Nets finished one and two atop the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks (54-28); Carmelo Anthony led the league with 28.7 points per game.  His team advanced passed the Boston Celtics in the first round of playoffs, then bowed to the Indiana Pacers in Round 2.
  • Nets (49-33); Deron Williams averaged 18.9 ppg. and 7.7 assists.  In their inaugural season playing in Brooklyn, the Nets fell to an undermanned Chicago Bulls team.

If you missed it, too bad, because that's as good as things got.  If futility ignited rivalries, this one would be a 3-alarm fire.

The Knicks quite literally fell off a cliff, forcing Dolan into somewhat out-of-the-box thinking.  Alas, he called on 1970's Knickerbocker hero/1990's Bulls nemesis Phil Jackson to help clean up the mess, despite a glaring lack of front office experience.

The Knicks failed to reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.  In 2013-14, they posted a sub-par 37-45 record.  Then came last season's record breaking disaster, in which the Knicks posted a 17-65 record, that some might argue was solely authored by the man (Phil Jackson) whom help the Knicks win their last championship over 40-years ago.

On July 13, 2014, the Knicks ponderously re-signed Carmelo Anthony to another max-pact, which totally flew in the face of Phil Jackson's rebuilding effort.

Brooklyn's rate of regression wasn't as shocking as that of the Knicks, but has been no less methodically painful to watch.  The Nets made the playoffs in 2013-2014 with a 44-38 record, and again last year with a sub-par 38-44 record.

While Melo was in full effect at Madison Square Garden, Deron Williams was incredibly ineffective during most of his time with Brooklyn.  Never able to shake the injury bug, he struggled mightily after accepting the role of franchise player.

On July 11, 2015, Deron Williams was mercifully waived by the Nets.

Like two bottle rockets on a mid-summer night, the fireworks demonstration over the East River anticipated by Manhattan and Brooklyn alike fizzled out.

Even the owners stopped taking cheap shots at each other.

Now what?

Brooklyn Nets: The unraveling realm of Billy King.

As noted, the Nets are in regression.  After posting 49 wins during their inaugural season in Brooklyn, they slipped to 44 wins in year two, to only 38 wins last year.

Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are still here, but the player formerly known as the franchise, is not.   Deron Williams plays for Dallas now, waived by Billy King.  He follows Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Kevin Garnett, and the seemingly hundreds of other players Billy King has brought in and out of Kings County.

With Williams gone, Jarrett Jack takes over the lead point guard role this season, but will not be available when the Nets host the Bulls in Wednesday night's season opener at Barclays Center.  Until Jack's hamstring gets jumping again, Shane Larkin will open the season at point.

Mason Plumlee is gone too.  Not happy about that!

Re-signing Brook Lopez was one small step for the Nets, but two giant feet of trouble for Brooklyn-kind.  The free agent opted to stay with the Nets - the only team he's known since 2008.

Brook played 82 games in each of his first three seasons, but not since.  His history of on and off again foot issues screams beware in 2015-2016.  He was limited to just 5 games in 2011-2012, then followed up with 74 games in 2012-2013.  He only appeared in 17 games during 2013-2014, then followed up again with 72 games played last season.

Will this turn into another problematic season for Brook and the Nets?

While his feet say one thing, Coach Hollins says another.  Remember how Lionel Hollins effectively benched Lopez?  Last season marked the first time Brook failed to start in any game which he played going back to his rookie season.  Last year he only started 44 of his 72 games played.

Joe Johnson is entering the final season of his contract.  That's nice, but the upcoming season won't be.

Lionel Hollins will make them play defense, but this does not strike me as a top eight Eastern Conference team.

That said, can someone explain to me why Billy King is still in charge?

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony, Phil Jackson, and Derek Fisher; a Triumvirate of Dysfunction.

Either they change the Knicks narrative together, or not at all...

Why re-sign Carmelo Anthony?  Last season, he played with a knee injury that would ultimately require surgery.  He played injured since opening night, yet only cared long enough in order to play in the all-star game before shutting down his season.

The Knicks entered the all-star break with a 10-43 record.  They ranked either last, or next to last on both offense and defense.  So why was he playing in the first place?


Robin Lopez gets to playing the same city as his brother, though.  That's nice.

Not so nice - Carmelo Anthony's reaction to Phil Jackson drafting Kristaps Porzingis.  Way to make the kid feel welcome.  If Melo knew the Knicks were in rebuilding mode, why re-sign with them?   I'm sure it had nothing to do with the Knicks ability to pay more than all other suitors...


This is still Melo's World.  We just get to live in it and watch.  Although, I'm still terribly interested to see who prevails as Knicks alpha-male - Phil Jackson or Carmelo Anthony.  Coach Fisher will be their battleground personified.

Team projections?  Don't make me laugh.  The Knicks will be lucky to win 25 games.

This non-burgeoning rivalry is still in search of better days.  
Their Dec. 4 clash will be nothing more than a pillow fight, 
as both contend for a second division participation trophy.

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