The Battle of the Boroughs: Nets or Knicks?


The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are both coming off of a season in which they both did not live up to their respective expectations.

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The 2013-14 Nets had championship aspirations upon acquiring future hall of famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. After a slow start, All-Star center Brook Lopez went down for the season with a broken foot.

The Nets managed to rally despite Lopez’s absence. Their version of small ball, with Garnett at center and Pierce at power forward, worked out wonderfully. The Nets ended the season as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and they to grind out a series win against the young and pesky Toronto Raptors.

The Nets were competitive in their next series against the Heat. In fact, they were within striking distance late in each game except for game one. They won game three, but besides that, the Heat shut down the Nets late in close games, which proved to be the difference in the series.

During the offseason, the Nets lost head coach Jason Kidd, as he fled the scene and headed over to coach the young and raw Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets replaced Kidd with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

On a mission to get younger this offseason, Brooklyn let Pierce walk in free agency. He signed with the Washington Wizards. Perhaps the most important player on the Nets roster last season, Shaun Livingston, received bigger contract offers elsewhere and eventually took his talents to the Golden State Warriors to play for rookie coach Steve Kerr.

Andrei Kirilenko and Garnett decided to opt in and stay in Brooklyn. Alan Anderson also re-signed with the Nets. The Nets traded for Jarrett Jack to back up Deron Williams and brought Bojan Bogdanovic over from Europe.

Coach Hollins expects Bogdanovic to play the perimeter and all indications are that Bogdanovic will be in the Nets’ starting lineup.

Coming into the offseason, the Knicks had one goal: find a way to keep superstar Carmelo Anthony in New York. In an attempt to sway Anthony’s decision, the Knicks fired head coach Mike Woodson, hired Derek Fisher to replace him and named Phil Jackson the president of basketball operations.

Anthony explored his other options in free agency this summer, and at points it appeared that Anthony would leave New York.

Despite reports that Anthony was close to signing with the Bulls to play alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Knicks instilled hope into their fans that Anthony would stay home and trust Phil Jackson to build a championship roster. Anthony ultimately decided to stay in New York.

Having someone of his presence and stature on the roster changes the outlook of incoming free agents when thinking about joining the Knicks.

Signing Carmelo Anthony wasn’t the only thing that the Knicks did this offseason. The Knicks traded Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks in return for Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin. Calderon is an underrated point guard who can help give the Knicks another scoring option besides Anthony.

The Knicks need Iman Shumpert to live up to his potential this upcoming season. With the triangle offense now being implemented the Knicks are hoping that the change in the system will rejuvenate Shumpert, who the Knicks organization has high hopes for.

Last season, the Knicks ran a lot of isolation plays for Anthony, which in turn tired him out. The triangle offense requires fluid ball movement and togetherness which will take a massive amount of the offensive load off of Carmelo Anthony and allow for him to be more healthy and less tired late in close games.

The Nets and Knicks both quietly had a solid offseason and both teams are flying under the radar entering this season. Last season, in four head to head match ups between these two teams, the Knicks won three out of the four meetings. Despite losing three out of those four meetings, the Nets made the postseason, while the Knicks did not.

It’s a new season and the city of New York is ready to find out who will be the better team this year. It all depends on the health of the Nets.

If Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are healthy and performing at a top-tier level, the Nets can be a top five team in the Eastern Conference. If they’re not healthy, the Nets will not be a playoff team or, at best, fighting for the eighth seed in the East.

If Carmelo Anthony buys in to the triangle offense and is truly committed to learning it, the Knicks can be a dangerous team in the East. Anthony will average his 25-plus points per game; that’s a given with him. The difference for the Knicks in being a No. 8 team or a top five team in the East will all depend on how the supporting cast performs.

Anthony put up arguably his best season of his career in 2013-14 and still missed the playoffs in a relatively weak Eastern Conference. For the Knicks to return to prominence this season, the likes of Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr will need to be efficient and effective.


Brooklyn Nets: 48-34, 4th in the Eastern Conference

Assuming Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are healthy, Lionel Hollins will get the best out of this team. The last season that Hollins coached was with the Grizzlies in 2012-13. That season, Hollins led the Grizzlies to 56 wins and a trip to the Western Conference finals. The Nets have a good supporting cast off of the bench with Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee, Jarrett Jack and others to help relieve some of the pressure off of the core.

New York Knicks: 42-40, 7th in Eastern Conference

Learning a new system is never easy, especially when your coach is a rookie. Derek Fisher is learning on the fly and, much like the Nets struggled early in the 2013-14 season under first-year head coach Jason Kidd, I expect the Knicks to have similar struggles early in 2014-15. It will take time, but the Knicks will find their identity and they will find a way to make the playoffs.

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