The twilight of an NBA season is never fun, especially when you root for a team who’s twilight is coming in the middle of April. All around you are signs of hope and optimism. There are 16 teams readying themselves for the NBA Playoffs — a system where theoretically “anything can happen” (but we all know the Heat, Celtics, Bulls and Lakers will be closer to the finish line than the rest). If basketball isn’t your sport, in the world of baseball, fans are still being treated to “Opening Days” where hope springs eternal (or so I’m told as a Mets fan). But when you’re rooting for a team with less than 30 wins and the bulk of their roster on the sideline in suits? You’re just looking at your watch like it’s 4:50 on a Friday at work. The games can’t pass by fast enough.
I mean, if I can’t get amped up for Knicks-Nets game after everything these two organizations put each other through this season, what game can get me excited? Here’s the problem though — these aren’t like the games of yesteryear where John Starks was literally trying to kill Kenny Anderson, or when Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson were performing Globetrotter-esque alley-oops on top of Tim Thomas’ little Fugazi head. It wasn’t even Deron Williams versus the Amare/Melo two-headed scoring-no-defense-monster. In last night’s 116-93 Knicks victory in Newark, the Nets started three guys who are certain to not be with the team next season (including two in Mario West and Dan Gadzuric who may not even be in the NBA) and if the owner gets his way, the other two, Brook Lopez and Jordan Farmar, will probably be packaged together in some kind of mega-deal for Dwight Howard or a superstar of that ilk. Look to the bench and it’s Stephen Graham (gone), Brandan Wright (gone), Ben Uzoh (D-League demotion) and Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw (both gone if someone is dumb enough to take their contracts). So trying to provide thoughtful, sincere analysis about a group of 10 players who in all likelihood don’t even figure into the team’s plans in six months? What can I possibly say?
I can pick on this team’s overwhelming unwillingness to ride Brook Lopez when they have nobody else. Lopez is the only Nets player suiting up these days who’s a legitimate starter on a playoff team. With Amare Stoudemire out for the Knicks, I predicted that Brook would cross the 30-point threshold easy. As it stands, he was stuck on 27, in large part because he sat most of the fourth quarter in blowout. But the shot distribution is still questionable. In the 3rd quarter when the Nets still had a puncher’s chance of getting back into it, Lopez made four of five field goals, including four of those attempts in a two minute timespan between the 6 minute and 4 minute mark. But getting ball to Brook that entire quarter was not a priority. Instead Jordan Farmar was heaving jumpers (0-4 from beyond 15-feet) and not doing much better at the rim (1-3). These are the games that should remind you why a team that won back-to-back championships with Farmar on the bench was more than willing to let him walk this past summer and sign up with the worst team in the NBA. While people can talk about Farmar’s winning pedigree all the want, he’s a player who acts as if he believes he’s more talented than he really is. Farmar wasn’t hitting shots all night (3-12, 0-5 from three). Why is he taking so many shots when his team is down double digits? Don’t point out that 9 assists to me. This has been Farmar’s MO all-season: to shoot as much as he can while ringing up cheap assists. He’s not a playmaker, especially when his team can only gather 93 points against a team with nonexistent defense.
And let me echo those sentiments for Sasha Vujacic. After another high volume, so-so shooting affair (6-14), including a dreadful 0-5 start from the field, I think it’s worth pointing out that he’s been shooting 39 percent on more than 10 field goals a game since the all-star break. I know Terrence Williams was a head case and draft picks are a valuable commodity in this league, but I think the theory that Sasha was some kind of “asset” the Nets acquired in that deal should be put to rest. He needs to be farmed out with the rest of the bricklayers this off-season, and my guess is The Machine will only find himself as an every day NBA rotation guy next season if he swallows his pride and goes to a non-playoff contender where he HAS to shoot 10 jumpers a game.
What else do you want to hear about this game? How the Knicks owned the Nets on the boards 48-38 despite have the the 28th best rebound rate in the entire league? The fact that the Nets perimeter defense was nonexistent, allowing the Knicks to drill 15-36 three pointers (did Butler’s college team even make 15 FGs in the entire game Monday night?) The fact that Carmelo Anthony had as many offensive boards (2) as Brook Lopez had total rebounds? What else is there to say? There are two games left before the front office begins their next round of purging. I can only hope they get it right next year.