Nets Preview: Brooklyn vs. Broadway
The Nets’ season-opener will now be Saturday against Toronto at Barclays Center, and barring a reschedule of the postponed game, their first tilt with the Knicks will come on Tuesday, December 11 in Brooklyn. Whenever that first meeting does come, a lot can change for both teams between now and then – and in fact a lot already has since they met in the preseason finale last Wednesday.
On the whole, Brooklyn enters the year as the most improved team in the league according to a consensus of NBA GMs, while the Knicks have a new point guard in Raymond Felton and a revamped bench full of veterans to play with stars Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler.
But in just the last 10 days, those Knicks have lost Stoudemire for the first six-to-eight weeks of the season due to knee surgery, saw Chandler play just 44 seconds of the preseason finale before injuring his knee, and still have two members of that veteran bench, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace, iffy for even their Friday opener due to a calf injury and conditioning issues, respectively.
The Nets, meanwhile, are seemingly at full strength, and the biggest question in terms of their rotation, specifically who will play and how much, can only be answered by Avery Johnson.
For the final installment of our month-long Nets preview, we sat down with Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel to gauge their thoughts on how the Brooklyn vs. Broadway battle matches up in the backcourt, the frontcourt, and on the bench.
This interview took place following the first YES Nets preseason telecast on October 15, and from what Ian and Jim told us then, the Nets seemed to have a slight advantage on paper; of course, the Knicks’ injury concerns can only help that, but as the cliché goes, the games aren’t played on paper.
Backcourt: Advantage NETS
IAN EAGLE: “You can make the case that the Nets have a Top 3 backcourt in the NBA right now, so they have the clear advantage.”
JIM SPANARKEL: “Agreed, because the Nets have known quantities. At point guard, you have an All-Star in Deron Williams – a guy who can play the 1 or the 2 – against either an aging Jason Kidd or a guy coming off a bad year in Raymond Felton, so Williams is the winner there. As for two-guard, it’s tough to beat a six-time All-Star in Joe Johnson with almost anyone, but the Knicks might not even know who their second guard will be; Iman Shumpert is hurt and it looks like JR Smith will be coming off the bench to start, so it could be more of a committee. Even if it is Smith because of all the injuries, as explosive of a scorer as he can be, he’s still against an elite player in Johnson.”
Frontcourt: Advantage KNICKS
IAN: “The Knicks have the advantage in the frontcourt with Stat, Melo, and Chandler, but the X-factor is going to be Brook Lopez; if he’s healthy, and if he is a willing rebounder and an above-average defender, the Nets have a chance to win 50 games. But if he has physical issues with his foot, or the team doesn’t gel up front, that will affect them drastically.”
JIM: “From a scoring standpoint, you have to give the Knicks the big edge because of Stoudemire and Anthony, and defensively you have to give Chandler an edge as the focal point. But, from the Nets’ perspective, the real question becomes how can they compete against the Knicks and match up well. I think Gerald Wallace on Anthony is a real good matchup, and if it goes with Kris Humphries on Stoudemire and Lopez on Chandler…it’s formidable matchup where maybe in certain areas there’s an advantage for the Knicks, but as far as a package goes I really feel comfy that the Nets frontline can more than compete with the Knicks frontline.”
Bench: Advantage NETS
IAN: “The Knicks bench is full of veterans, which helps experience-wise of course, but they may tire late in the season. The Nets, meanwhile, have a desire and energy around them, and even though they do have a couple of elder vets in the mix, their bench is full of veterans who may tire late in the season, the Nets have a desire and energy around them.
JIM: “With CJ Watson, MarShon Brooks, and the frontline depth, I think the Nets have the edge. The Knicks have some good pieces, but age and durability is a concern, whereas the Nets can find eight or nine guys to play 12 positions so to speak and matchup however they need to.”
The final head-to-head tally was 2-1 Nets, but there are still 28 other teams that Brooklyn and New York must contend with as well. So who will finish with a better record? Spanarkel was reticent to make a prediction, but Ian Eagle said that talent aside, the situation surrounding the Nets could be a key factor in surging them past their now intra-city rivals.
“As I said, the Nets have a desire and energy around them; to a man, the Nets recognize that this is a potentially great situation, because you don’t get to be a part of something new and different all that often in the NBA,” Eagle said. “Normally, in an expansion situation, the team is going to struggle, but this isn’t like that; this is a team that’s going to make a big splash, but the question is whether the on-court performance lives up to the hype.”
And, as you may gather, Eagle feels it will, and the Nets will be looking down on the Knicks in the standings come April.
“My gut feeling in looking at the two teams is that the Nets will finish with a better record than the Knicks,” Eagle said. “I think the Knicks still have some unanswered questions; they’re confident about the point guard spot with Felton and Kidd, but we still need to see it in action, and as I said, their bench could tire late in the season.”
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