Some of the fans are already starting to turn. An elderly man sitting behind me at the Garden recently broke a third-quarter crowd silence with a passionate "Amar'e, you suck!" just prior to a free throw.
The Brooklyn Nets haven't exactly been easy to root for, either. The super lineup that management put together has looked rather mediocre—almost like a band of random instruments each playing different tunes.
It's too bad. I was picturing a heated Knicks-Nets playoff series prior to the season. Paul Pierce cooking in the fourth. Carmelo Anthony matching him, going shot-for-shot down the stretch. Maybe some Tyson Chandler-Kevin Garnett in-game beef. Make it a tag team matchup with Metta World Peace and Reggie Evans.
Maybe there would be some postgame war of words. J.R. Smith would probably have something meaningful to say. How about James Dolan versus Mikhail Prokhorov?
But based on how the season has kicked off, it doesn't look like that's the direction we're currently headed.
It seems that nothing has gone right for either team early on. But one of them has something the other one doesn't, and it's likely to keep them close to the surface and eventually propel them right above it.
Hate him or love him, the Knicks have an MVP-caliber difference-maker, and the Nets don't.
Carmelo Anthony is the type of guy capable of carrying a team—not just in a game but over a stretch of a season. I watched him do it with my own two eyes just a year ago, when he led the NBA in scoring and the Knicks to a second seed in the playoffs.
He did it with J.R. Smith as his No. 2 and Raymond Felon as his point guard. Melo guided New York into the second round against the Indiana Pacers despite the team's rotating-door frontcourt depth consisting of Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin.
He did it with his $100 million partner missing 53 games of the season and playing limited minutes the other 29.
Say what you want about the guy's shot selection or basketball IQ, but don't underestimate Anthony's value over an 82-game regular season. With Melo on his game, there's only a handful of players capable of making a similar impact. And the Nets don't have one.
And though Anthony as the solo star may not be a recipe for championship success, it should be good for a ticket to the NBA playoffs.
Who knows what to expect from the Nets? They don't have a "life jacket" superstar to lean on, a coach who's been down this road or the time to grow and experiment. The addition of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce altered the whole dynamic of the team, calling for an adjustment period that's likely to take some time—maybe even a whole season.
Brooklyn also lacks durability. With injuries keeping Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez (ankle) and Andrei Kirilenko (back) from building any rhythm, this hole the Nets are in might actually get deeper before it shrinks.
In the meantime, Pierce and Garnett can't be counted on for consistent production, especially not when they're being relied on as top-three offensive weapons.
The Nets have a lot of talented, experienced and ultimately unreliable pieces. Brooklyn is going to need all hands on deck clicking together to make it work, and that requires time, something Brooklyn doesn't have.
For the Knicks to make the playoffs, they don't need as many things to go right. The solution to their problem is simple—Anthony, along with Smith, must relocate their scoring zones.
The Knicks don't beat teams with fundamental, team-first basketball. They win with offensive firepower, difficult shot-making and milking hot streaks. There's no real defense for 27-foot pull-up three-pointers or step-back fadeaways in the corner. When guys like Anthony and Smith get hot, all strategy, sets and game plans go out the window.
It's not going to win the Knicks a title, but with offensive players as potent as Anthony and Smith, it's enough to get them in the postseason door.
And I know that Anthony and Smith are eventually going to heat up like microwaves. It'll probably happen sometime in December and carry through 'til March, just in time for them to cool off for the playoffs.
But I have no idea what's going to happen with this Brooklyn team. While there's a wave inevitably waiting for the Knicks to ride, the Nets are left hoping for health and instant chemistry.
It seems safe to say that these two teams aren't the contenders we thought they might be, but one of them could be in danger of experiencing one of the bigger letdown seasons in recent memory.
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