1:36 pm Jul. 16, 20121
Two weeks ago, the Knicks were well-positioned to return a playoff team headlined by Jeremy Lin, their most popular player, to Madison Square Garden.
The Brooklyn Nets, meanwhile, stood a decent chance of losing their only star in Deron Williams and bringing a desolate roster to the Barclays Center for their first season battling the Knicks for New York dollars.
Now the Knicks look ready to jettison their most marketable player in Lin. Carmelo Anthony, already suspect in fan eyes for doing his part to separate coach Mike D'Antoni from the Knicks, managed to offend those fans who came or returned to the Knicks thanks to Linsanity by calling his offer from Houston "ridiculous." (Apparently, union solidarity means as much to Anthony as playing hard on defense every game, no matter who the coach is.)
And the Nets, though they are Dwight Howard-less, retained Williams, added Joe Johnson, and have a collective roster that fits together, on paper, far better than the Knicks'.
It will be up to an aging Jason Kidd or mediocre Raymond Felton to change that reality for the Knicks. Neither one is Jeremy Lin.
The timing couldn't be better for the Nets, who are offering themselves as an alternative to the "Manhattan" Knicks just as a recently reengaged chunk of the Knicks' fan-base may be looking for an excuse to jump right back off the bandwagon. This is the Nets' big chance, thanks to their team-building this off-season, and apparently because of James Dolan's dismantling.
It's funny: Mikhail Prokhorov's provocative ad across from Madison Square Garden in the Summer of 2010 was bluster. His declaration that he could turn "Knicks fans into Nets fans" was a necessary bit of bravado.
But the Knicks appear to be doing his work for him. Instead of returning Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler and Lin, the Knicks will have the Big Three and the stylings of Felton—a team predicated on the isolation play, capable of beating bad teams but never, most likely, playing together as legitimate contenders must.
The Knicks roster is still plenty talented. They're just a lot less compelling as a team now, and, unless Jason Kidd can magically play like the young version of himself, a lot less plausible as a unit.
The Nets, meanwhile, are something new, and dangerous. They're arguably going to be a better team on paper than the Knicks are, assuming the Knicks end up with Felton. And they even match up well with the Knicks one-on-one, since neither Felton nor Kidd is going to be able to defend Williams, or keep up with him, and because J.R. Smith is no Joe Johnson, and because Gerald Wallace should provide a good defensive check on Carmelo Anthony.
The Nets are new, new, new—new team, new arena, new uniforms, new up-tempo play.
The newness of last year's Knicks, will be relegated to your local neighborhood remainder rack.