Comparing Disaster Reports for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets
It'd be in poor taste to compare the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets' disastrous campaigns to actual catastrophes. After all, as bad as the year has gone for these two teams, we're still really just talking about multimillion dollar playthings for filthy rich owners who are still making a few bucks in the process anyway.
So we'll leave Chernobyl, the Hindenburg and the volcanic eruption of your choice (Vesuvius? Santorini, perhaps?) out of the discussion.
Instead, we'll employ a less life-and-death but still familiar set of "disaster ratings" to quantify just how messy things have been for the Knicks and Nets. In other words, we'll assign letter grades.
When everything's hunky-dory, an "A" is in order. When we're poised on the precipice of full-on calamity, "F's" will issue. In order to keep things relatively uniform, there will only be a couple of isolated departures from that tried-and-true system.
It's easy to see that both the Knicks and Nets are full-blown disasters. But which star-crossed franchise has it worse?
Brooklyn's "talent pool" features a bunch of old guys whose skills simultaneously went over a cliff this year, a banged-up Deron Williams who can't get to the line anymore and nary a meaningful minute from Andrei Kirilenko.
If that weren't enough, Brook Lopez, the team's best player, will lose yet another season to a broken foot. The bench depth was supposed to be a major strength for the Nets this year, with Andray Blatche, Jason Terry and Reggie Evans serving as support for a star-studded cast of starters. Instead, the reserves are playing much more than they should, and the results have been abysmal.
There's talent on this roster, but most of it is too overmatched or broken down to make any difference.
The Knicks lost Tyson Chandler for over a month, knew Amar'e Stoudemire would be limited from the outset and have seen points guards drop like Raymond Felton's floaters don't. But their problems aren't as strongly rooted in physical health as the Nets' are.
Instead, New York's roster suffers from a mental malaise that might actually be just as damaging as any physical malady. The players here don't fit together, and none of them seem particularly interested in trying.
The Knicks don't defend, play like they've never met each other and are looking very much like a team that is simply waiting for the nightmare to end. What's especially troubling is that this is roughly the same collection of talent that won 54 games a year ago.
Ultimately, there are more players on the Knicks who are somewhere in the neighborhood of their primes. Carmelo Anthony, Chandler and J.R. Smith (if he'd at least pretend to care) still have talent.
For that reason, this roster isn't quite as doomed as Brooklyn's. But it's still a pretty close race.
It's a little unusual when the two most decisive moves of a head coach's season involve purposely spilling a drink and cursing out an assistant coach, but Jason Kidd isn't your usual coach.
Handed the job with no previous experience and expected to lean heavily on a veteran roster, Kidd has floundered all season. Tactically overmatched and unprepared for the complexities of managing a dozen different personalities on the roster, the first-year head coach has been a thorough (if not unexpected) disappointment.
And now, the worst thing imaginable is happening: Kidd is losing the locker room.
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
For all the stories about Kidd's grandstanding speeches in the locker room, calling out players in private and public, make no mistake: He's losing these Nets the way Scott lost Kidd a decade ago. Eventually, the players need a plan, need substance. There's no faster way to lose a locker room than calling Kevin Garnett a quitter.
Kidd spilled a drink on purpose in order to buy some time earlier this year. But time's running out now, and he's careening toward an almost-certain dismissal.
It's hard to know how much of the blame for the Knicks' awful start belongs to head coach Mike Woodson. The issues plaguing New York now—horrible communication on defense, a reliance on isolation basketball, a general lack of effort—might easily be the fault of players who simply aren't listening to worthwhile instructions.
Per Al Iannazzone of Newsday, Chandler said as much:
The decisions that we made, some of the mistakes that we made, didn't fall on Woody's shoulders. We have to then take it upon ourselves as players, and there's been several situations, whether it's been game plan, whether it's strategy, where each player is in the right position to succeed, and we haven't succeeded.
Then again, Woodson has appeared dejected and seemingly bereft of answers in recent press conferences, so it's also possible that he's stopped even trying to communicate with his players.
I'm certainly not trying to defend the way Woodson has led this team. But you've got to concede that the personalities in New York are far harder to manage than the ones in Brooklyn. For that reason, Woody's season hasn't been quite as disastrous as Kidd's.
It's still been pretty awful, though.
Say what you will about Mikhail Prokhorov, but the guy is solely devoted to winning. And he's obviously willing to spend whatever it takes to do so.
Unfortunately, a naked desire to win without a clear plan on how to do it intelligently isn't worth much. Brooklyn has specialized in splashy signings and headline-grabbing trades, but the players it has acquired have either been too old or too ill-fitting to produce results.
It's certainly not ideal for an owner to be so recklessly in love with short-term thinking, but at least Prokhorov has proved he's willing to put his money where his mouth is. Maybe he's not hiring the right decision-makers underneath him, and perhaps he's spending too much in his efforts.
But at least he's got his priorities straight.
This is easy; James Dolan is the least effective, most poisonous owner in the NBA. He's beholden to some strange CAA cabal that prevents him from making any meritocratic decisions with his roster or front office, which is really just the beginning.
He has all of Prokhorov's worst spending instincts, but also manages to throw good money after bad more egregiously than his Brooklyn counterpart. Basically, Dolan is at the top of a crumbling pyramid and refuses to stop hurling boulders down the sides of the structure.
He hides from the media, has no idea what it takes to build a winner and is inexplicably enamored with Anthony.
Until he's forced to sell by some unlikely fan revolt, the Knicks have no hope.
Grade: Super Ultra F-
If the Knicks are the best source of comedy in the league, the Nets represent the tragic side of things.
The basketball is painfully slow and unquestionably ugly, and the entire experience just reeks of sadness. Brooklyn might be the least entertaining team in the league from an objective standpoint, and the fact that so many of its players have reputations as hard-nosed competitors makes watching them stumble around all the sadder.
Only Knicks fans can justifiably find any enjoyment in watching the Nets, but that's because Brooklyn is a comforting reminder that at least somebody's got it worse than they do.
If you're a Knicks fan, there are rare—and I mean rare—occasions when Anthony gets especially hot or Chandler controls the glass with such dominance that the Knicks are somewhat enjoyable to watch in a conventional sense.
Those instances are few and far between, though.
Fortunately, the unintentional comedy New York provides on a nightly basis makes it one of the most delightful viewing experiences imaginable for the rest of us.
Defensive rotations look like a circus act, J.R. Smith is liable to hoist up some of the worst shots imaginable and Andrea Bargnani might be a comedic genius. Unless you're actually invested in the outcome of a Knicks game, they're an absolute treat to behold.
The whole Lawrence Frank fiasco was pretty juicy, but the Nets haven't really had much in the way of dramatic punch this season. As Kidd's seat continues to get hotter, there's a chance we'll get some fun stories to digest, but for the moment, the Nets' press releases are very much like their on-court product: boring.
Other than Williams, most of Brooklyn's roster is comprised of legitimate professionals with little history of stirring up controversy. So, if you're looking for somebody to pipe up in a way that generates salacious headlines, expect it to be D-Will.
I'd draw up a list of all the Knicks' ridiculous, hard-to-believe storylines this season, but by the time I finish it, J.R. Smith will probably have hijacked a train or set Madison Square Garden on fire. So what's the point?
These Knicks create controversy without even trying.
It starts at the top, of course, with New York's front office doing things like cutting loose a somewhat successful general manager just days before the season started. And then there's the Chris Smith debacle, which involved a totally shady acquisition of J.R.'s brother that was followed by a dismissal J.R. categorized as a "betrayal," per the New York Post's Fred Kerber.
Toss in Anthony's impending free agency, Iman Shumpert's blatant dissatisfaction with everyone in the organization and the tension surrounding Felton's pregame pie-eating contests, and you've got yourself an unparalleled load of drama.
Per RealGM.com, Brooklyn owes a bevy of picks to teams around the league over the next few years. Most notably, the Nets will have to swap first-rounders with the Atlanta Hawks in 2014 and 2015, and will also have to surrender their unprotected No. 1 pick to the Boston Celtics in 2016.
Rebuilding through the draft is not an option.
In addition, the Nets are going to pay a historically high luxury tax this season and will also be over the projected salary cap through the end of the 2015-16 season. The only valuable trade asset on the roster just broke his foot for the second time and won't be playing basketball for the rest of the season.
So, I guess you could say the Nets are going to have a rough time cleaning up this mess. If you wanted to be a little more colorful, you could also say "they're screwed."
Still, money is no object for Prokhorov, and his willingness to spend his way out of a hole is actually a positive. There's almost no wiggle room here, but at least the Nets have an owner who'll employ every resource to fix things.
Like Brooklyn, the Knicks will have to give up their first-round picks in both 2014 and 2016 because of trades to acquire Anthony and Bargnani. The only reason they'll retain their 2015 first-rounder is an NBA rule that prohibits trading such selections in consecutive seasons.
So, there's that.
New York's salary-cap situation is bad, mostly because of the money pit that is Stoudemire, Bargnani's $11.5 million salary next year and the inexplicable decision to offer J.R. Smith financial security this past offseason.
Even after Anthony exercises his early-termination option this summer, New York will still just heave a pile of money at him immediately, tying up its finances for another five years if he's foolish enough to accept the offer.
The Knicks are convinced that 'Melo is a star worth the max, a player they can build around. Because of that belief, they'll offer him a ton of money in order to enjoy his decline over the next half-decade. If you haven't yet grasped the notion, New York is basically clueless when it comes to handing out checks.
Brooklyn's books are in worse shape, but the Knicks are sure to botch whatever marginally greater spending room they have.
And have I mentioned that as long as Dolan is calling the shots, there's no hope whatsoever here? I did? Great. Just wanted to be sure.
Final Disaster Analysis
By now, it should be clear that offering up "disaster grades" is far from an exact science. Really, it's just a way to summarize the ongoing parade of misfortune that continues to befall both the Knicks and Nets in their awful seasons.
For what it's worth, the Nets graded out slightly higher in the Ownership and Long-Term Outlook categories, while the Knicks earned more favorable marks for Watchability (ironically), Roster, Coaching and Drama.
Ultimately, neither of these teams is in good shape, which you should have gleaned from the number of times the word "disaster" appeared in this rundown.
If Brooklyn can find a way to cut loose some of its high-priced assets, there's a chance it'll turn things around eventually. The Knicks, though, are facing an unwinnable scenario: They simply can't straighten this mess out with Dolan in charge.
Overall, the current state of the Nets is a bit bleaker than it is for the Knicks. But because Dolan still writes the checks, it's impossible to envision a future in New York that's anything but disastrous.