Knicks More At Risk In Borough Bad-ttle

Mike Woodson
Mike Woodson's job may rest on Thursday night's game. (AP)
Mike Woodson
Mike Woodson’s job may rest on Thursday night’s game. (AP)

On Thursday, the 3-13, ultra-disappointing New York Knicks will come to Brooklyn to battle 5-13, ultra-disappointing Brooklyn Nets in the first of four battle of the bads boroughs set for this season. How does the outcome impact each of these two downtrodden franchises exactly?

You might say that one game means nothing in a marathon of 82. Often true. But Thursday’s matchup between the Knicks and Nets feels like the ultimate desperation game for both teams; with one-fifth of the season already passed, neither has lived up to the championship hype set forth by their respective owners this past fall.

The Knicks are riding a nine-game losing streak heading into tonight’s contest, their longest such streak since the Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury days in 2006.

The seat that hosts their head coach is sizzling with speculation from many that a loss Thursday would mean Mike Woodson’s end in New York. Their players are fighting on the court. Their star player thinks his team is playing to lose.

Their troubles start with — but certainly don’t end with — defense: since their starting center Tyson Chandler went down with a fractured leg on November 5th, the Knicks are allowing 107.8 points per 100 possessions which would rank dead last in the NBA if accrued for the entire season.

Carmelo Anthony has said that the Knicks miss the presence of Jason Kidd along with the rest of the veteran leaders that aided their 54 win season a year ago. They’ve struggled with ball movement and minutes restrictions on their $21.7 million dollar power forward Amar’e Stoudemire.

Their third-ranked offense from a season ago? 23rd. Their consistent and efficient three-point attack from last season (they ranked 5th in 3PT FG%, 1st in 3P FGA’s and makes per possession)? Now one of the league’s worst (28th in 3P FG%, yet 1st in 3PT FGA’s per possession). The Knicks are a bigger mess than was the Barclays Center court when Jason Kidd “accidentally spilled” his soda.

A loss for New York would be their 10th straight, and possibly a one-way ticket for Mike Woodson out of New York. Their owner is not know to be patient (though he thinks he’s more patient than Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov) and hates losing to the Nets.

You can bet that if the Knicks lose on Thursday, a change — or changes — will almost certainly be made.

A win for the Knicks would have similar significance: though it would only bring them to within nine games of .500, they would be able to build off of something. It wouldn’t be an ordinary win either — it’d be a win against their crosstown rivals heading into what they’ve termed as a “softer” schedule. It would also inch them closer to the Boston Celtics, leading the Atlantic Division by default. Someone has to.

Bottom line: a win probably won’t turn their season around, but a loss could derail it for good.

The Nets have had injuries galore, along with a difficult time adjusting to a new system and a rookie head coach.

There’s been chaos abound with the coaching staff that started in the summer and ended with an ugly breakup between Jason Kidd and lead assistant coach Lawrence Frank this week.

Their chemistry hasn’t developed yet (and might not if the injuries keep up) and they’ve had one of the toughest travel schedules in the NBA thus far.

But bottom line: they haven’t played well. There hasn’t been much momentum with which the Nets could work with: they’ve yet to start a winning streak, and three of their five wins have come against teams that currently at or below .500. They’ve been blown out by good teams and bad teams alike, and they their projected starting lineup has played just 78 minutes together all season.

So what would a win mean for this discombobulated bunch?

It could be the momentum-builder the Nets have desperately needed. A win in a game with higher-than-normal intensity should bring a jolt of energy to an organization that’s been viewed as the laughingstock of the league for the past few weeks.

Like the Knicks, a win would also bring them closer to the Division-leading Celtics. But the Nets have a bonus: an upcoming stretch with 7 of their next 10 games at home, and a chance to get back some of the walking wounded that have been missing from the everyday lineup for weeks.

But they’ll still be 6-13, on the outside of relevance looking in.

What about (gulp) a loss? A loss to the team with the 2nd worst record in the NBA in front of a national audience on TNT could prove disastrous for the then 5-14 Nets. The ridicule, the mockery, will only get louder.

Though the Eastern Conference is currently in horrid condition, the Nets would have to go 36-27 the rest of the way just to finish the season with a .500 record. Almost unfathomable for a team with such high hopes before the season began.

A loss could also force changes, though with a mostly untradeable roster being untradeable and ownership’s continued confidence in coach Kidd (they’ll pay Lawrence Frank nearly $6 million to do “daily reports” to satisfy Kidd’s demands), that scenario seems unlikely.

Whatever happens Thursday, both teams will still be bad. The only question remains: which team will be worse?

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