Who's Worse, the Nets or the Knicks?
This is a fun game to play, isn't it?
Well, if we were going strictly by records, the New Jersey Nets would have the obvious advantage right now. New Jersey has played 14 games to this point in the season and they've won a grand total of...umm...zero. The New York Knicks, on the other hand, have a whopping total of three victories, congratulations to the organization on that.
So yeah, on records alone, the Nets are the lowest of low. But let's look at the big picture here, I'm talking about the remainder of the season. Who will have a better record at the end of 82 games, the Knicks or Nets and why?
For starters, the Nets have suffered through a Mets-esque parade of injuries. Their best player, actually the best player on either team in the Metropolitan area, Devin Harris, has played in only four games, starting in just two. When healthy, Harris is one of the quickest and most explosive penetrators in the NBA, a scoring point guard with an incredible knack for getting to the foul line.
In Harris' absence, the keys to the team have been in the hands of "Skip to My Lou," better known as Rafer Alston or perhaps it's the other way around, anyway, I digress. Alston is an experienced floor general, but he can't create offense for himself the way Harris does and there's too much mileage on his legs to be playing the minutes he has.
The funny thing is, the Nets actually have an excellent third-string point guard in Keyon Dooling, but he's been out the entire season. Alston has been backed up by rookie Terrence Williams, who is a small forward by trade, certainly not an ideal situation.
In addition to the Harris and Dooling injuries, the Nets have been without Yi Jianlian (who got off to a surprisingly fast start), Jarvis Hayes (their best bench player a season ago), Courtney Lee, and Chris Douglas-Roberts at times.
Bare in mind that the planned starting lineup was Harris, Lee, CDR, Yi, and Brook Lopez, and that Hayes was supposed to be one of the first two ballers off the bench. In essence, New Jersey has been without five out of its top seven players.
But Knicks fans are thinking: excuses, excuses and that's so true. Who even knows if the Nets would be good with their regular rotation available?
So what about those Knicks?
They are equally as difficult to watch, if not worse. The thing about the Nets is, at least they try to play clean, heady basketball. The Knicks, on the other hand, are running-and-gunning under the tutelage of Mike D'Antoni and it's painful to watch.
Before the Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph trades last season, it was pretty entertaining, because those guys could actually make shots. Now we have Wilson Chandler and Larry Hughes jacking up shots that would make Red Auerbach turn over in his grave. The shot selection is truly mind-boggling.
As for the coaches, I can't really support either guy right now. I understand that Rod Thorn and Donnie Walsh lined up Lawrence Frank and Mike D'Antoni as their coaches after the '10 free agent class, but they should have to earn their way there, shouldn't they? I realize that the Nets and Knicks' roster situations are far, far from ideal right now, but 3-25 combined, really ?
It's pathetic. I'd take the ax to Frank because the Nets have gotten progressively worse since he took over for the underrated Byron Scott. Zero wins, fourteen losses might as well try to shake things up. The past two games he brought Harris and Lee off the bench, as if he had the luxury to do that at 0-12.
Regarding D'Antoni, well, he gives me a headache. Here you have a franchise in rebuilding mode and yet lottery selection Jordan Hill and late first-rounder Douglas can't seem to find their way onto the court for significant minutes.
If now's not the time to develop younger players, then when? Doesn't Walsh talk to D'Antoni about organizational development? Where is the leadership? Do Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry really have to play? Why did they trade for Darko Milicic and then bury him so far on the bench that he can't even see the court?
It's all about contracts, I suppose, but what if they don't get LeBron, D-Wade, Dirk or Amare? Chris Bosh isn't the answer, let's get real. So Mr. Walsh, tank two entire seasons for Bosh? That will be the end of your tenure in New York, I would think.
In the end, it's hard to tell. These two franchises are in such disarray that they can't really be evaluated. If D'Antoni tried playing Nate Robinson, Harrington, and Danilo Gallinari together more offensively, I might favor the Knicks. But Mike doesn't seem to want to do that. If Frank put Harris, Lee, CDR, and Lopez back together with consistency, I might favor the Nets, but he hasn't done that yet.
So what's the verdict?
I think I'll just turn off my TV before tipoff.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston's popular GM Theo Epstein. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)
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