It starts at the top.
New York basketball has entered a sad, sorry state, punctuated by treasonous blueprints and importunate dysfunction. Think of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks as trickle-down economics personified. On crack.
For a brief, fleeting New York second, they were kings. Toasts of Big Apple sports. Model contenders.
Excess of veteran leadership, fused with career years from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, helped the Knicks win 54 games and their first Atlantic Division title since 1993-94 last season. It was glorious.
Driven by innate desires to outdo their crosstown rival, the Nets forged their own offseason powerhouse, forfeiting future financial and draft flexibility for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and a team that could win now.
Results on either side of the fence have been disastrous. Both New York-based teams inhabit the bottom. Bold expenditures have gone awry, and grand ambitions have been replaced with fading hopes of salvation.
Matchups against actual contenders, like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, aren't helping. They put things in perspective, a dark, gloomy perspective lacking optimism.
And it all started upstairs, in Brooklyn's and New York's respective front offices, before spilling onto the court, delivering the appallingly expensive products we see now.
Oh, they're bad. Maybe even worse than the Knicks—though their record doesn't show it—and they have the powers at be to thank.
General manager Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov have made for an impatient duo, consumed by instant gratification but unable to successfully construct a roster in the image of their "vision."
Their follies were evident long before last season. Before the Nets even moved to Brooklyn, their suits devalued draft picks and future plasticity. Seriously, it's been embarrassing.
Trading for Deron Williams in 2011 was a justifiable move. Doesn't hurt that he was acquired at a reasonable price, either. But after that, their decision-making process has been utter crap. It's actually a disgrace to crap.
Where teams like the Thunder exuded patience and paved their own road, the Nets tried to purchase a direction.
There was the Gerald Wallace trade, when the Nets relinquished a top-three protected pick that turned into Damian Lillard. Then there was the four-year contract they handed Crash that was mercifully moved (or so Brooklyn thought).
Don't even get me started on Joe Johnson's arrival. The Atlanta Hawks now have the right to swap first-round picks with Brooklyn this year. Four months ago, this was "whatever." Nowadays, it's not unrealistic to see the Nets sending Atlanta a top-five selection that turns into Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid or some other projected star from this summer's stacked draft class.
Because Nets fans haven't suffered enough, Brooklyn also mortgaged what little future it had on Garnett and Pierce, two stars now stranded somewhere between Marginal Role Player Land and Retire Already, Damn't Island.
All told, the Nets, per RealGM.com, do not own control of their own first-round pick until 2019, when teleportation will be possible and subsequently legalized. Yet they were supposed to rival the Thunder, the who's who of draft-day dominance (see Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, etc.).
Topping this all off is Jason Kidd, the rookie head coach called upon to lead a jury of his peers. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski says he's lost the locker room less than halfway through the season, not unreasonable considering how bad the Nets are.
Exhausted? Angry? Confounded by Brooklyn's recurrent stupidity? Join the growing club.
Reckless player and personnel decisions have left the Nets 11 games under .500, falling faster and faster out of playoff contention.
"No idea. We have many issues," Garnett said of his Nets, per the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "Right now I’m trying to make sure that eventually I’m able to give something."
Nearly $200 million in salaries and luxury taxes well spent, right?
Life isn't much better in Madison Square Garden, or even better at all.
New York has long been preparing for this moment—complete catastrophe, that is. Slowly, surely, owner James Dolan has run them aground.
Anguish became hope once Donnie Walsh positioned the Knicks to make a free-agency splash capable of ending a decades-long championship drought in 2010. But the Knicks called their shot, swung and missed. Badly.
Feeling slighted, New York turned to Amar'e Stoudemire, investing nearly $100 million in his degenerative knees—all of which was uninsured. When's the last time you saw San Antonio overpay for a flashy name? Or make a bad investment at all?
Retrospectively, it may have been a necessary gamble. Anthony is in New York, and STAT is a big reason why.
But the Knicks couldn't even chase Anthony correctly. Though the Denver Nuggets had no leverage, New York gave them the world, shipping out Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Raymond "Muhahaha I'm Back" Felton, Danilo Gallinari (sad face) and a first-rounder plus cash, for a player who would've definitely signed during free agency.
'Melo wasn't going to New Jersey. That was an empty threat, manufactured by media, team officials and Dolan's own delusion. The Knicks could've nabbed Anthony for less. A lot less. Or nothing.
Whatever. Chandler was, and remains, a defensive force. It was the manner in which New York snagged him that was awful.
Instead of finding a home for Chauncey Billups' expiring deal, the Knicks amnestied him. They could have held onto that tool, using it on STAT when it became clear he was done. But no. Options be damned. Financial purgatory, here we are.
Since then, one poor decision has followed another. Whether it's underselling first-round picks of their own while playing the role of Masai Ujiri's whipping boy (Andrea Bargnani), allowing Creative Artists Agency to run their locker room or handing money to players who don't deserve it (J.R. Smith), the Knicks have remained true advocates of chaos.
It's a disturbing fact. The Knicks have always traded pliability for stringency, thinking that's the only way to win. The Spurs, meanwhile, are everything they're not, doing just fine as they prepare for their 17th consecutive playoff berth.
"I think he's ['Melo] leaving," an anonymous former teammate player told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. "I’ve played with Melo for a long time and he knows he can’t win here. At this stage, all he wants to do is win. That’s why he’ll leave."
There's that, too. Frustrated by New York's absence of San Antonio-style thinking, Anthony, who the Knicks are all in on, could leave this summer in free agency.
Sounds about right.
That's the number of wins Brooklyn and New York have combined for. The Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Spurs and Thunder all have more by themselves.
Those are teams the Knicks and Nets were supposed to hang with. They were contenders, erected out of free agency and trades, projected to win. But they've done just the opposite.
Both rank in the bottom 11 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Both are outside the lowly Eastern Conference's playoff picture.
Both are a disgrace.
Things are so bad in Brooklyn, players cannot even sit through entire games.
Existing conditions are so poor in New York, relatives of Knicks players are berating their family's employer.
Knicks are gonna get their asses kicked tonight. #SpursNation. No way in hell it's a game tonight. NYK lacks pride right now.— Daniel Artest (@DMArtestQB) January 2, 2014
Life is so bad for both, and it's not getting any better.
Facing teams like the Thunder and Spurs serves as a stark reminder of how far gone New York and Brooklyn are. San Antonio and Oklahoma City are legitimate contenders, formed through savvy drafting and shrewd spending, not haphazard plotting and scheming.
Lethargy and nonexistent results can be blamed on players, but their very presence can be attributed to those in charge.
Which team is in worse shape?
Impulsive planning with complete disregard for forward thinking and common logic hurt both teams. Destroyed them.
"This is not how I envisioned it," Anthony said, per Isola.
This not how the Knicks or Nets pictured it. Both front offices imagined something bigger and better. Something greater.
But both envisioned it all wrong.