January 23, 2014 / Sports / The Brooklyn Nets / Back Court

Knicks prove things aren’t so bad for Nets

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Thank god for the Knicks.

In any other city in the world, the Nets’ first two months of the season would have qualified them as an unmitigated laughingstock. The big offseason signings, the $180-million roster, the unconventional head coaching choice, the Russian oligarch demanding championships — and that’s the product?

When the Knicks crushed an injury-ravaged version of this Brooklyn squad in December, it seemed things couldn’t get any worse. But the Nets’ 23-point thrashing of the inner-city rivals Monday during the teams’ first meeting at relative full-strength, was a good reminder that the trainwreck unfolding across the East River is enough to make any team feel good about itself.

Remember the Knicks last year? Remember how quickly their meteoric start fed speculation that they were among the East’s top tier?

This column wasn’t sold, and most Nets fans likely had to stifle a couple eye rolls when coworkers suddenly became Spike Lee-level diehards over a backcourt prominently featuring the final throes of Jason Kidd the Player and everyone’s favorite Argentine rec-league standout, Pablo Prigioni.

For posterity, a couple quotes from last year’s columns There’s this:

“A quick way to tell if a team might be bluffing is to look at shooting percentages. Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith drained 14 of 19 three-pointers — more than double his career average — during the team’s winning streak.”

And this gem:

“Half the Knicks roster might be using walkers next year, but things are good now, and that makes people happy — and commands media attention.”

The point of reprinting those quotes is not to highlight how this column saw the Knicks for the paper tiger they were (but of course that’s part of it). It is to show how predictable the Knicks’ regression was to anyone not drinking orange-and-blue Kool-Aid, and just how little the Knickerbocker front office did to prepare.

The Nets’ Boston signings have been a bust for most of the season. But adding Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry instilled in this young franchise a winning attitude, even if they were too old and slow themselves to make those wins happen.

By contrast, what did the Knicks do this year? Make a splash by signing Andrea Bargnani, whose entire career in Toronto was a study in apathy toward winning?

And of course the Knicks would confuse the mirage that was J.R. Smith’s 2012–13 season with an actual desire to win. J.R. demanding his brother be allowed to suck up one of the team’s roster spots should have tipped off the folks at the Garden that he didn’t have the team’s best interests at heart.

There is no denying Nets general manager Billy King has squandered draft picks and much of the Nets’ ceiling over the next five to 10 years in exchange for embarrassingly minimal short-term gain. But as far over the salary cap and as draft-pick poor as the Nets are, the Knicks aren’t that far behind on either front. In the city’s battle for basketball incompetence, this season is proving Manhattan still rules.

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

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