The battle began in the owner’s box, with Brooklyn Nets head man Mikhail Prokhorov and New York Knicks owner James Dolan trading verbal jabs and making major offseason moves in the race to be New York’s most relevant team.
But the competition has fizzled thus far on the court. Both teams have sputtered to slow starts and appear to be void of the potential packed within their rosters on paper.
Prokhorov raised the ante this summer when he hired the recently retired Jason Kidd as the new coach and acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics. With that came $180 million in luxury taxes and the NBA’s highest guaranteed payroll at $101.8 million.
The result? A 2-5 mark as of Friday following a 21-point loss to the Sacramento Kings, a team that had lost its last five games and entered the contest ranked as the league’s worst defensive team in terms of efficiency.
“We look good on paper but now we need to step it up,” Terry said to the assembled media following Wednesday’s defeat. “Everyone on this team should feel like it’s a desperate situation.”
Part of this desperation stems from the team’s limited window of opportunity, what with the 36-year-old Paul Pierce in his 15th season and the 37-year-old Kevin Garnett in his 18th campaign.
Garnett has showed his age the most, averaging just six points in 22 minutes per game while shooting 30.6 percent from the field. Kidd has worked to manage Garnett’s minutes Doc Rivers did in Boston to save the $12.4 million man for the late-season stretch, but to no avail.
Though the season is less than a month old, some have already compared the Nets to the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers. With Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal and Gary Payton on one roster, a title appeared to be a given. But with an average age of about 33 and little chemistry among them, the one-year experiment of a team fell to Detroit in the NBA Finals.
Carmelo Anthony remains one of the league’s purest scorers with an average of 26.1 points. But many of the team’s flaws have been exposed ever since center Tyson Chandler went down with a foot injury that’s expected to sideline him for four to six weeks.
Without him, the Knicks must rely on Andres Bargnani to protect the paint. Despite standing 7 feet tall, the former No. 1 overall pick struggles on the defensive end and does most of his offensive damage around the perimeter.
The Knicks do have another player known for his strong play around the basket, but Amar’e Stoudemire’s history of knee injuries have zapped his ability to produce. Despite being on the books for $21.7 million, the six-time All-Star is averaging just 2.8 points in 9.8 minutes of play.
With the true extent of Stoudemire’s deteriorating knees hampering his trade value, his contract is likely to eat up one-fourth of the Knicks’ payroll until its 2015 expiration. By then, the likes of Pierce and Garnett are likely to be retired, leaving both teams with little to show for in their race for New York supremacy.
BY THE NUMBERS
Amount of money Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes was fined after being ejected and using vulgar language in a tweet following an on-court scuffle with Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka during a Wednesday victory. Barnes has been suspended four times and fined numerous times for his on-court behavior.
Number of consecutive sellouts by the Los Angeles Lakers before the streak ended Tuesday night in a victory against New Orleans.
“Scottie Pippen, for sure. Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon. I got no chance of losing. None at all.” -Michael Jordan on the four NBA players he would select for a pickup team.
“If that is happening, shame on whoever is doing it. … As an American I wouldn’t like to think that an American team would [ever] want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose. I can’t even fathom — I can’t go there.” — Duke Coach Mike Kryzewski on the idea that some NBA teams are tanking.