Did you know that the Brooklyn Nets play a game tonight? Against the New York Knicks? At 7:00 P.M. at Barclays Center?
I know, I know. Who would’ve thunk?
Seriously, tonight will hopefully be another interesting matchup between these two teams — the Brooklyn Nets took the last contest 96-89 in overtime, but they’ll be without starting center Brook Lopez this time. The Knicks are as full-strength as they’ve been all season, missing Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, and Marcus Camby.
Jim Cavan on the New York Knicks:
Devin: On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you in the Knicks winning tonight’s game now that we know Brook Lopez will sit?
Jim: A 19. How’s that?
In all seriousness, Lopez’s distinguishing threat — an intermittently feathery touch from midrange — is one Chandler isn’t forced to deal with often. That ability to draw Tyson out of the paint is itself reason enough to be glad that Brook ices his pixie feeler one more night. You could certainly argue that Chandler’s superlative performance back in November (28 point and 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end) would’ve gone even more gangbusters had it been up to Blatche or Evans to body up the Knicks’ bearded linchpin. For all his faults — and in this diluted era of franchise-driving pivots, no center is without one — Lopez still wields an admirable skill set that can pose problems for opposing defenders and defenses. So please, by all means, attend that Lena Dunham book proposal reading, Brook.
Devin: Last year, the Knicks made their bread on their Tyson Chandler-led defense despite ranking in the bottom third of the NBA offensively. This year, their defense is relatively average, they’re one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, their offense is 3rd overall and they’re arguably the best team in the NBA through 20 games. What’s going on?
Jim:I’m not quite as concerned with the Knicks’ defense as others, for the simple fact that, if you throw out the Houston game (not throw up — I did this plenty that night), the Knicks are suddenly 8th in defensive efficiency, instead of 12th. Couple that with the league’s 8th toughest schedule to date and the fact that they’ve played 60% of their games on the road, there’s reason to believe there’s nowhere for the D to go but up. Then again, I also don’t expect them to continue making an egg carton’s worth of threes every game, either.
Come playoff time, I think the Knicks will be a top-10 team on both ends. But make no mistake, Glen Grunwald has purpose-built this squad according to a blueprint not unlike what the Mavericks referenced during their unlikely 2011 title run: Surround your sweet-shooting cornerstone with relatively efficient two-way players capable of spacing the floor on offense, holding their own on defense, and disciplined enough to stick to the game-planning of their capable skipper.
Devin: You were one of the bigger pro-Lin bloggers when James Dolan let him flee to Houston. Has your perception of Lin/Felton changed since the beginning of the season, or do you still hold the long-term belief that the Knicks made the wrong move?
Jim: First off, you spelled “basement pajama internet novelist” wrong. Secondly, no comment…
….Alright, fine. The decision to dismiss Lin — and the manna mined from his incredibly unlikely ascendance – in lieu of Felton was nothing if not a win-now gambit. So it’s impossible to levy too heavy a value judgment quite yet. Let it also be known that Felton has absolutely exceeded my and a lot of other people’s expectations thus far, and I’m genuinely thrilled by that development, happy for him, and don’t want it to end — ever.
Lin, on the other hand, has struggled. But since I won’t admit that I’m wrong until fifty years after both he and Felton have retired (and/or someone offers me a forklift full of cash pallets to do so), I’ll offer Phil Jackson’s famous quote — the most important thing about the team is the player, and the most important thing about the player is the team — as my Emo refrain. To wit, I truly believe Lin’s meteoric rise could only have happened on that team, with those players, at that weird time in the Knicks’ season, though I still think he’ll end up being an above-average player with a longer-than-normal career. But — and you can blame this on bitterness or blindness or whatever you want — I’ll never believe he’ll be as good as he might’ve been had the Knicks recognized found money for what it was and rolled dice on the one genuinely good thing that had happened to the team in ten years. That’s just how karma works. But all’s well that ends well, right?
Great, now I’m crying. Thanks, Devin.