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It’s a good thing that the NBA has picked Brooklyn and New York to host NBA All-Star Weekend. It’s a good thing because that’s the only thing of league-wide prominence that will be taking place within the confines of the five boroughs during the remainder of the season.
Since Jan 4, the following has happened for both teams:
Jan. 5 – Realizing that the team is not headed anywhere Phil Jackson begins the break-up process, trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers. The return package is three names who are immediately waived with two re-signed to 10-day contracts to save money. The rumors of the trade and actual execution of the trade break Twitter for a few hours and the trade happens after both players warm up in Memphis.
Jan. 7 – Over in Brooklyn, Deron Williams gets hurt again. He lasts four minutes with what is called a left side injury. A day later, the Nets announce he will be out at least a week with a fractured rib though you know it will be longer than that. In that same game, an 89-81 loss to the Boston Celtics, Brook Lopez doesn’t chase down a loose ball because he assumes it will be a backcourt violation. Instead the Celtics score and Lopez is called “lazy” by coach Lionel Hollins. After the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he told his team not to worry about being down 10-2 during an early timeout. Whether that’s Stevens expressing confidence in his young team or an expression of what he thinks of the Nets is open to interpretation.
Jan. 8 – A day after having three games moved off ESPN, a national TV audience is subjected to the Knicks on TNT. The result is a predictable 120-96 loss to the Houston Rockets but the news is that fans start showing up near the visiting bench wearing paper bags on their head. The bags become a big deal, especially on “Inside the NBA”, which shows highlights of the game while Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley wear paper bags on their heads.
Jan. 9 – This is the day that the Knicks are officially passed in the win column by the 76ers and they have the ineptitude of the Nets to thank. Thinking they can beat the Sixers, the Nets rest Kevin Garnett. The game ends with the Nets blowing a 13-point lead over the final 14 minutes and losing when nobody picks up Nerlens Noel, who dunks in the game-winner with three seconds remaining. If that wasn’t bad enough, on the final possession, Lopez is forced into taking the final shot, a 3-pointer that had little chance of going in. Afterwards Hollins says “You act like we are one of the better teams in the East or in the league. We’re not. We are right down with them, Philadelphia — we just have a few more wins. That’s all it is. People keep saying that’s a bad loss. We are trying to get wins against anybody we can.”
Jan 10. – A half hour before tip-off against the Charlotte Hornets, Phil Jackson offers a mea culpa about this season and admits he didn’t pick the right group of players in his first attempt at being a team president. Then the Knicks lose 110-82. At one point, they give up a 55-15 run and through three quarters their 44 points are the fewest in the shot clock era. The only thing getting the Knicks over 80 points is backup forward Quincy Acy, who hears the MVP chants at the foul line because what else is a bored fan to do when the home team is getting pounded again.
Jan. 12 – Before the Nets take on the Houston Rockets, Hollins says this about the identity of his team: “We don’t make shots. That is an identity. If you don’t make shots, that’s a part of who you are.” Then he continued by saying: “We have guys who have been great shooters, or good shooters throughout their careers, wherever they played. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m the problem, but I don’t know. I don’t shoot them, but I’m sure that behind closed doors, without a microphone on, some players may say I am the problem, the reason they can’t shoot.” Then Kevin Garnett gets ejected for headbutting Dwight Howard four minutes into the game after Houston has already scored 17 points. Then the identity surfaces as the Nets have a 6-for-23 stretch over 14 1/2 minutes and get blown out.
The funny thing is that this wasn’t supposed to be this way. As recently as two years ago, the Nets and Knicks combined for 103 regular-season wins. Then the Nets lost a Game Seven at home, claiming to have no energy and two weeks later the Knicks were knocked off by Indiana.
That led to the surrendering of four first-round picks to the Celtics in an ill-fated deal to get Paul Pierce and Garnett. The Nets only had one year of Pierce, won 44 games and only played 10 days further than 2012-13, hardly the type of ending envisioned when the word championship was thrown around constantly.
For the Knicks, Tyson Chandler‘s knee injury helped derail a season just two weeks in. A 3-13 start was too much to overcome even as they won 15 of their last 21 games and finished one game out of eighth place. Instead it set in motion another “so-called” rebuilding project.
Obviously the Knicks are not going to the postseason. That will be the 10th time in 15 seasons since Patrick Ewing played his last game for the Knicks on June 2, 2000.
The Nets are still in eighth place but the teams behind them are playing much better, especially Charlotte and Detroit. By the time they get done playing nine of their next 11 games against playoff teams, it would hardly be an surprise if they’re out of the top eight by Feb. 6 when the Knicks visit Brooklyn for “Ineptitude Bowl Part 3”.
What happens after this season will be interesting. In fact the rumors surrounding any potential trades or free agent signings might be the most compelling news either team produces over the next few months.
By the numbers:
Combined wins: 21
Combined losing streak: 21
Combined payroll entering the season: $175,681,564 million
Combined double-digit losses: 28