Ups and downs dog Knicks, debilitating injuries decimate Nets
Richard Carter | 10/12/2012, 4:17 p.m.
"Welcome to tomorrow..."-Powers Boothe, "By Dawn's Early Light" (1990)
At times during the 2009-2010 season, the New Jersey Nets endured an ungodly run of debilitating injuries-often playing minus four starters and suiting up only eight players instead of the normal 12. And at this point in the truncated 2011-2012 National Basketball Association campaign, the same injury-plagued scenario is repeating itself.
On this side of the river, the New York Knicks-touted by their coach and various others as a legitimate threat to win the NBA title-have been up and down, to say the least. Their stars have been less than stellar and have difficulty playing together, their role players have been awful and, until recently, their backcourt has been horrendous.
From a positive standpoint, owing to the ludicrous 159-day lockout of players by NBA owners, it won't be long before the 66-game season, which began Christmas Day, will be a bad memory. And remember, this writer absolutely loves pro hoops.
The battle for basketball supremacy in New York officially starts when the Nets relocate to Brooklyn in October. Meanwhile, on Feb. 4, unheralded point guard Jeremy Lin led the Knicks in a 99-92 win over the shorthanded Nets at Madison Square Garden.
Not to diminish Lin's recent, surprising heroics, but it must be noted that the Nets had almost as many players injured for that game as were dressed. The teams meet two more times this season-again at the Garden and once at the Prudential Center in Newark.
When the campaign got underway, not much was expected of the Nets, while many so-called "experts" picked the Knicks to be contenders. Except for a 97-90 overtime win over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia, the Nets have been pathetic and the Knicks have gone from dismal to hopeful. Here's a look at each as the halfway mark looms.
First the Nets. Bankrolled by Russia's flamboyant Mikhail Prokhorov-the richest owner in pro sports-and eight months from their first game in Brooklyn's spanking-new Barclays Center, the future is bright. However, the current campaign has been a disaster.
To date, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the disappointing 2011-12 Nets is that they have four different Williamses on the team: Deron, Jordan, Shawne and Shelden. And at times, all four have been on the floor at the same time. Hmmm...
At this writing, a broken foot in preseason has kept Nets' 7-foot center Brook Lopez out of the first 29 games. He is expected back later this month. A broken foot also sidelined starting forward Damion James-just as last year-while a broken toe and strained Achilles tendon knocked outstanding rookie MarShon Brooks out for six games.
There's more: New swingman Keith Bogans broke his ankle, tore his shoulder and is finished; center Mehmet Okur-obtained to replace Lopez-sat out many games with back spasms; swingman DeShawn Stevenson was sidelined with a bad knee; and All-Star guard Deron Williams and forward Kris Humphries missed time with bumps and bruises.
On the bright side, if the Nets are able to pry away 7-foot center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic by the mid-March trade deadline-which seems likely-they would be better, but it's still a long shot for them to make the playoffs. Howard is the NBA's best center and says he wants to team up with playmaker supreme Deron Williams.