Two weeks ago, the Nets led the Knicks in a game of professional basketball. Then some third-string point guard entered the game. Ten games and nine losses later, the Nets seek revenge against point robot Jeremy Lin and his randomly assembled cast of characters that deliberately excludes Carmelo Anthony.
Joining me to take a look at tonight’s game and the teams that’ll play it is Knickerblogger-er Jim Cavan. As the 1-on-1 goes, I’ll ask Jim three questions about the Knicks, and he’ll ask me three on the Nets.
Jim on the New York Knicks
1) when is the Lin train derailing? Tonight? Next week? Never?
Last stop, Springfield, baby! In all seriousness, I’m looking forward as much as the next person to the day when a Lin 20-10 doesn’t occupy 80% of a SportsCenter broadcast. With every game, the fact that Jeremy Lin’s talents aren’t somehow disappearing as quickly as they arose gets thrown into higher and higher relief. As far as how he finishes out the season, my prediction from a few weeks ago still stands: I think he’ll end the year averaging in the neighborhood of 15 or 16 points and eight or nine dimes – a hell of a year, all things considered. As for tonight, I expect an all-out slugfest with Deron Williams, who I’m certain has spent the better part of the last two weeks dart-shredding a Lin poster.
2) Talk to me about the Amare/Lin pairing.
Thus far, it’s clear that the two’s chemistry won’t be as instantaneous or as obvious as we thought or hoped. At this point, Lin clearly prefers Chandler as his P&R sidekick, looking more content to swing the ball to Amar’e at the weak side elbow or wing, where the latter has proven to be…. Umm…. Not good? Part of it has to do with the actual picks themselves: Chandler’s are almost always solid and steady – the rolls picture perfect. In contrast, and as with other facets of his game thus far this year – the fact that he couldn’t defend an engine-less Buick on defense, for instance – Amare’s picks are at best inconsistent, and at worst half-assed. These things take time, however, so I’m not ready to rule out an effective calibration just yet.
3) In your estimation, is this team better off without Carmelo Anthony, who’s likely to return in tonight’s game?
Look, Renaldo Balkman had his opportunities, and just basically squan…. Oh, Melo! That guy! Right. If you asked me this question a month ago, my answer would’ve been a resounding maybe. But Lin’s ascendance has changed the whole narrative, not least of all with respect to Melo’s role in the offense. For the time being, I’m willing to take Anthony at his word that he’s chupped to bits to finally have a capable floor general manning the helm – this despite averaging the highest assist percentage of his career (24.3%) up until his latest injury. Lest we forget, Melo was actually the one who prodded D’Antoni to give then pine-ridden Lin his chance during the first Nets-Knicks showdown earlier this month. I just have a hard time believing that having Carmelo Anthony as your starting small forward is going to hurt your offense more than Bill Walker flopping all over the place.
Devin on the New Jersey Nets
1) Short of landing Dwight Howard, what’s it going to take to keep D-Will in New Jersey? If he bolts, how would you rebuild?
At this point I’m thinking more and more that the Nets are all-or-nothing — they either retain both Howard and Williams, or miss Howard and lose D-Will. But I’m increasingly becoming more okay with that, even as my eyes continue to burn watching Johan Petro and DeShawn Stevenson squander Nets leads and vomit jumpers. Losing both D-Will and Howard gives the Nets the chance to gut and start again, which means high lottery picks and fun young players. If D-Will bolts, I’m sure the Nets will throw money at Brook Lopez and other restricted free agents as well as grab someone decent with their assured high lottery pick.
2) Assuming the Nets don’t make the Playoffs — and in a weak East in a lockout-shortened season, with injuries abound, that’s certainly not even a given — how should they approach this year’s incredibly deep Draft?
That depends entirely on their pick. If it’s #1, I think the choice is obvious — though I’m not entirely sold on him, Anthony Davis is the can’t-miss prospect in this draft. After him, the waters get a little more murky. Chad Ford lists Andre Drummond as the Nets #2 option, though I doubt the Nets go for a center given their options (no matter what happens with Dwight). The Nets could desperately use some scoring on the wings, so don’t be surprised if Harrison Barnes or Jeremy Lamb suit up in Brooklyn next season. The Nets also have the rights to the Houston Rockets’ first-rounder (lottery-protected), and Billy King is known for making draft-night deals, so similarly don’t be surprised if the Nets end up with more lottery picks than they’d intended.
3) MarShon Brooks looks to be a lock for All Rookie First team. How impressed have you been, and where do you see his ceiling?
Swag. I use that nickname because MarShon likes it, and because whatever innate confidence the word intends to describe, it applies. MarShon carries himself like a pro and has since day one. He can create a decent shot in almost any situation and knocks down his open ones consistently. The early comparisons ranged from Kobe Bryant (wildly and stupidly optimistic) to Nick Young (just stupid). The answer lies somewhere in the middle of those two; there’s no chance he becomes the next Kobe just on pedigree alone — at the same age, Kobe was scoring 28 a game en route to his second championship ring — but he’s already surpassed Nick Young’s career-high in assists and is a far more willing passer than Young has ever been. He needs a lot of work defensively, but he has all the physical and mental tools to succeed for a long time in this league.