Hello once again athletes!!!
This could turn into a long, ranting post, but bear with me. And no, this isn’t about brotherly rivalry in sports, it’s about the “smaller market” teams of Los Angeles and New York. Let’s do this like Nike!
If, let’s say, five years ago, someone would’ve predicted the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks would become the second-best (pro) basketball team in their respective state, most would be baffled by the perceived foolishness of such a claim. The Lakers were winning with the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol duo, so it would’ve been near-impossible to imagine the Clippers being better than the Lakers any time soon (if ever), and at the time, the Knicks were the only NBA team in New York — the Brooklyn Nets were stinking it up in New Jersey.
Five years, a relocation, a Russian billionaire, a few coaching changes, a few (super)stars being dealt (Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony), bum knees, bad backs, and a torn Achilles later, that prediction doesn’t seem so egregious.
After years of being the cast-off or “little brother”, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets are not only poised for their best season to date, they may be on the verge of doing the unthinkable — overtaking the role of “Best Team in Town.”
The Brooklyn Nets, coming off of a 49-33 campaign, shocked the basketball world by acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry in a Draft Night Blockbuster deal, all while sending back MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, and a multitude of first-round picks. Not only that, they re-signed the resurgent Andray Blatche, drafted Mason Plumlee, and added defensive stopper Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston to their bench. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez form, arguably, the NBA’s best starting line-up. Everyone is intrigued by new head coach — and former Net — Jason Kidd, but some overlook the fact that Kidd has an all-star assistant cast of sorts, hightlighted by former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank, former coach of the Pistons.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks are coming off their first 50-win season in over a decade, led by scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, and Sixth Man of the Year JR Smith. However, JR Smith may missed the first month or two of the regular season due to knee surgery. It’s extremely difficult to predict what oft-injured Amar’e Stoudemire will produce, and there’s a lot of intrigue around the acquisition of former No.1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani — a stretch-4 that normally shoots the ball very well (but not much else), but had his struggles last season in Toronto.
After Carmelo Anthony and, perhaps, pudgy-but-productive Raymond Felton, everyone else on the roster is a question mark to some degree. Tyson Chandler had a decent regular season, but was dominated by Roy Hibbert in the second round of last year’s playoffs. Iman Shumpert is in Year Two post-ACL surgery, and while he may be back athletically and defensively, his offensive game is questionable. Can Kenyon Martin stay healthy? How will JR Smith respond to knee surgery and his new financial security?
Although the Knicks are a little bit younger this season than they were in the last one, the supporting cast around Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, and JR Smith is still relatively old, with the exception of Iman Shumpert. Depending on how Smith recovers, there’s no telling how much playing time first-round selection Tim Hardaway Jr. will receive, although undrafted rookie CJ Leslie could fill in Chris Copeland’s shoes.
As of now, it seems as if the Knicks have hit their ceiling — a scary, and disappointing realization as it pertains to the franchise’s title hopes. That isn’t to say that this Knicks team isn’t talented, but it seems that the teams fighting for the “Second Best in the East” claim (Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago) all got better, while the Knicks either marginally improved, or essentially stayed the same. With that being said, the Knicks are in danger or losing Carmelo Anthony next off-season unless the team performs better than expected.
On the flip-side, the Nets are on the cusp on challenging the Miami Heat as the best team in the East if the chemistry and coaching is there. Miami may have the best player in basketball, but the balance and depth Brooklyn can throw at Miami may be enough to make things interesting if they were to meet in the playoffs. It should be noted, however, that Brooklyn’s key acquisitions (Pierce, Garnett) are very old in basketball-terms, and Brooklyn’s financial obligations (payroll north of $90M) combined with their lack of draft picks going forward have limited their championship window. However, their roster’s talent and depth trump the one in New York.
I hope this made you think before you decide who is the best team in each repective state.
That’s it for now athletes. Remember to check the blog every single day, and read all of the amazing posts by the Reporters.