Knicks-Nets Preview

Start spreading the news. One of New York’s bumbling basketball

teams is about to win!

The Brooklyn Nets, who have been terrible, host the Knicks, who

are even worse, on Thursday night. A national TV audience can

witness just how bad things are in the Big Apple.

Or, they can just take it from the people involved.

”Both teams stink,” said Nets coach Jason Kidd.

”We are the laughingstock of the league right now,” said

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.

That’s not exactly what TNT was hoping for when the schedule

came out.

What was supposed to be a matchup that highlighted a growing

rivalry between neighboring teams with high expectations has turned

into the kind of game that will have fans scrambling for their

remote controls in search of a holiday special to watch.

The Nets are 5-13, 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference but a

full game ahead of the Knicks (3-13), who have lost nine in a row.

Only the Milwaukee Bucks had a worse record entering play

Wednesday.

”You’ve got two teams that expectations were high coming into

the season and we’ve both have had our struggles,” Knicks coach

Mike Woodson said. ”But again, if they’re looking at it like we’re

looking at it, nobody’s running away with the division and I still

think our team can win the division.”

Yeah, well when rebuilding Boston is currently leading the

Atlantic with just an 8-12 record, that isn’t exactly saying

much.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Knicks won the Atlantic

last season with 54 victories, the Nets weren’t far behind at 49,

and both thought they could be even better this time.

The Nets were considered the favorites after acquiring Kevin

Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston and assembling a deep roster

with the league’s highest payroll – a team that would cost more

than $180 million once luxury taxes were factored in. The Knicks

have the league’s second-highest payroll, but both teams have been

wrecked by early season injuries.

Pierce is out with a broken bone in his hand and Deron Williams

has been sidelined by a sprained left ankle, an injury that forced

Brook Lopez to miss seven games. The Knicks lost Tyson Chandler to

a broken leg in their fourth game, taking away their most valuable

defensive player.

So as much as they want to beat each other, both teams realize

one game isn’t going to undo more than a month’s worth of poor

performances.

”I think at this point we’re trying to figure out who we are

and fix this,” Garnett said after a 111-87 loss to Denver on

Tuesday. ”We’re at home and getting beat by 30, 40 points. That’s

not what we want, that’s not even close to what we were predicted

or where we want to be.”

Things were much better for both teams when Kidd was playing

last season for the Knicks. New York misses his leadership on the

court and in the locker room, and it’s been a rocky transition to

the Nets’ bench, where Kidd has been fined $50,000 for

intentionally spilling a drink on the court to delay a game. He

already shook up his staff, reassigning top assistant Lawrence

Frank to a role where he won’t be at practices or games.

Woodson said he feels for Kidd, but he’s got his own problems.

With the Knicks on their longest skid in eight years, the questions

about his job security come more frequently.

”I’ve had the opportunity to come in here and coach a team and

turn a team around, and right now we’ve had our ups and downs, this

early season, but am I going to throw in the towel? Absolutely

not,” Woodson said. ”I’m still the coach of this team, we’ve got

a big game tomorrow night, which I think we can win, so we’ve just

got to stay focused and stay the course.”

Neither Anthony nor Woodson would disagree with Kidd’s

assessment of the current state of NBA basketball in New York. It

should provide plenty of fodder for Charles Barkley, who likes to

needle New Yorkers even in the best of times, and who will call the

game with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr.

Anthony wasn’t aware the game was on TNT and wasn’t concerned

much with what will be said Thursday.

”We are the laughingstock of the league right now. It’s nothing

to hide. We are,” he said. ”So that’s why it is a big game for

us.

”Do I like being laughed at? Hell no, I don’t like that

feeling. But about it being TNT, about them guys mocking us,

they’ve got to do their job. We want to win, that’s the only thing

that I’m focusing on.”

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