Heading into the season the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets were predicted to be amongst the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Both clubs were unfortunately battered with injuries to major players on their respective teams. The two struggling franchises will clash tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Knicks lost the former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler early in the season to a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula. Chandler missed most of the month of November and will likely not be back for at least another week. In Brooklyn, Deron Williams ankle continues to be a factor as he missed the previous two weeks and is listed as questionable for Thursday night’s game. Though it is safe to assume he will not play tonight as the Nets look to take the conservative approach in hopes that their star point guards ankle can properly heal. The newly acquired Paul Pierce also went down early this week with an injury to his right hand and will miss 2-4 weeks. The Nets have had a slew of injuries in the early going. Not only Deron Williams and Paul Pierce, but with Brook Lopez, Jason Terry, and Andrei Kirilenko all missing significant time. With these injuries both the Knicks and Nets, who had championship aspirations heading into the season, have found themselves at the bottom of the standings as they enter Thursday night’s matchup.
Knicks owner James Dolan has said that he expects his team to win a title this year. The Knicks lost to the Indiana Pacers last season in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and the biggest reason for that was the complete domination of Roy Hibbert. To the displeasure of the Knicks and the rest of the NBA, Roy Hibbert has gotten even better this season. James Dolan thinks that with the addition of Andrei Bargnani, who has historically been defensively illiterate, his team can win a championship. To be fair, Bargnani has played better defense then expected this season but this by no means makes the Knicks a better team than either Indiana or Miami. Ownership and some Knicks fans have looked for some kind of a scapegoat to pin their troubles on. That scapegoat seems to be Coach Mike Woodson. After all the success the Knicks have had with Woodson at the helm this is highly unfair. Woodson has not been given the proper roster nor had a healthy enough team to compete with the top teams in the East.
If there is anything we have learned about the Knicks in Tyson Chandlers absence it’s that he is more valuable to this team than anyone on the Knicks. That includes Carmelo Anthony. Chandler is the defensive backbone on this team. With him on the court the Knicks are very formidable and teams have a lot of trouble scoring inside the paint. Without Chandler, it magnifies just how much defense Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith aren’t playing. This is the main reason why the Knicks have lost 9 in a row (and 10 of 12 since Chandler went down). Carmelo Anthony is without a doubt one of the most capable scorers in the game. But the combination of the lack of defense of Carmelo and JR Smith and not having Tyson Chandler in the lineup; the Knicks are one of the worst teams in the league.
The Nets have their own set of issues and even more injuries then Knicks. Brooklyn has veterans like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams who have all proven to play good defense in their careers. If this team can learn to play defense as a collective unit then offense will come. It was expected for there to be a learning curve with this team as they learn to play together but injuries have made this team struggle even more. The Nets success is only a matter of health and playing time together.
People have questioned the decision of Nets GM Billy King who was responsible for hiring Jason Kidd seemingly out of nowhere. Kidd was one of the greatest point guards of all time but that doesn’t stop critics from bashing the hiring. Throwing Kidd into the fire to run a veteran team with championship aspirations is a lot of pressure for a rookie coach to handle. It has been unfair to judge his performance as a coach at this point in the season when this team has all the injury problems it has. As I said before, given time and the cooperation of health this team will slowly begin to play better. Patience is the most important thing the Brooklyn Nets can do right now. Kevin Garnett should be praised for his leadership and diligence in this transition period that this Nets team is going through.
There are rumors that both coaches are on the hot seat, particularly Mike Woodson of the Knicks. James Dolan has set the bar far too high for his team and may make an impulsive move following the results of Thursday night’s game against the Nets. A decision that could see Mike Woodson ousted. The Nets Owner Mikhail Prokorov put a 5 year window for a championship when he bought the team in 2010, and seeing a loss to a Knicks team that has dropped 9 in a row may cause him to make an impulsive move as well. Regardless of Thursday night’s results it is not looking good for New York basketball.
The Knick and Nets tip off at the Baclays Center at 7:00PM EST on TNT.