The highly anticipated summer of 2010 is on its way, but for now
the only competition between the New York Knicks and the New Jersey
Nets is determining who’s currently playing worse.
Though it’s the Nets hoping to avoid infamy over the NBA’s final
month, the Knicks have also struggled mightily heading into
Saturday night’s meeting at Madison Square Garden.
New Jersey (6-55) and New York have set themselves up to be
major players this summer, when names such as LeBron James, Dwyane
Wade and Chris Bosh could be available as free agents.
The Nets will have more than $23 million in salary cap space to
play with and the Knicks should have nearly $32 million, but
neither team has given any potential superstar much of an on-court
incentive to move to the New York metropolitan area.
New Jersey needs four wins in its final 23 games to avoid
matching the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for worst record in league
history, while the Knicks (21-40) haven’t been faring any better
recently. New York’s 102-96 loss at Toronto on Friday was its 11th
in 13 games and its 20th in 26.
The Raptors, who were without Bosh after he was hospitalized
with severe stomach pains, became the fifth team in six games to
shoot better than 50 percent against the Knicks.
“No matter what quarter we didn’t play well in, with Bosh not
playing, this is a game we should have won,” said David Lee, who
had 23 points and 18 rebounds.
New York held 16 of 21 opponents under 100 points from Dec.
6-Jan. 18, but digging in defensively has become an afterthought
lately. The Knicks have allowed an NBA-worst 112.2 points per game
since Feb. 5.
“I just didn’t think we had the necessary gumption to get up on
them and guard a little man-to-man and stop it,” coach Mike
D’Antoni said. “We couldn’t do it. They scored every time.”
New Jersey has only allowed 98.6 points per game in that same
stretch, but as has been the case all season, the offense hasn’t
been there to push it over the top. The Nets’ 97-87 loss to Orlando
on Friday marked the 30th time they’ve failed to score 90.
After visiting the Knicks, seven of New Jersey’s next eight
games are against opponents that are .500 or better. Yet, point
guard Devin Harris insists the season isn’t over.
“From the outside (perspective), that’s probably true,” he told
the NBA’s official Web site. “But we want to finish strong.
Obviously we have our minds set on trying to compete each and every
game and trying to win every game.”
One of New Jersey’s few wins came against the Knicks, 104-95 on
Dec. 30 at the Izod Center. Yi Jianlian scored 22 points while
Brook Lopez had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Chris Douglas-Roberts will likely start again Saturday if
Courtney Lee (sprained ankle) misses a fourth straight game, and
he’s certainly enjoyed facing the Knicks. The second-year guard has
averaged 19.8 points in five career games versus New York – 12.4
higher than his average against the league’s other 28 teams.
Al Harrington has averaged 25.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his
last two games against New Jersey.