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2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Knicks and Nets

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Here we go, my friends.  The first sign that fall is here and the NBA season is coming soon is the beginning of the NFL campaign.  We're already headed to Week 4 there, so it's time for the second sign:  the start of the Blazersedge NBA preview.  We'll roll through all 30 teams during the next few weeks.  We'll examine what has changed, what remains the same, and take wild stabs at what the possible prospects are.  Some things to note:

--These are not meant to be all-encompassing.  The comments are brief, hit the highlights, and are often done with a sense of humor.  I think I'd get a headache doing an exhaustively comprehensive preview of every team.   If there's something I don't cover that you want to know, ask in the comments.  Feel free to add your own stuff as well...disagreements and corrections too!

--The "Key Players" list means just that...guys who are significant to the team.  They're not necessarily listed in their exact order on the depth chart.

--Often I will do the previews and another post during a day, but I usually like to celebrate the first one by letting it stand on its own.  Don't worry, there will be other content during the preview period as well.  Consider this almost like bonus coverage.

 

NEW YORK KNICKS

Record:  23-59, 5th Atlantic Division, 14th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

27th in field goal % 

28th in opponent field goal %

27th in three-point % 

30th in assists

26th in steals

30th in blocks

28th in opponent turnovers

 

Others:

21st in the league in scoring (96.9 ppg)

22nd in opponent scoring (103.5 ppg)

25th  in ppg differential (-6.6 ppg)

13th in free throw attempts per game

23rd in free throw percentage

23rd  in turnovers

Good offensive rebounding team

Low-Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari (R), Patrick Ewing Jr (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Renaldo Balkman

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Mike D’Antoni

 

Key Players

PG:  Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Chris Duhon

SG:  Jamal Crawford, Mardy Collins

SF:  Quentin Richardson, Danilo Gallinari

PF:  Zach Randolph, David Lee, Jarred Jeffries

C:  Eddy Curry, Jerome James

 

Comments

 

Ahhhh…the Knicks.  The rebuilding process began this summer with the long-overdue relieving of Coach/GM Isiah Thomas.  (Want to simulate his tenure with the Knicks?  Go out and hire that guy who captained the Exxon Valdez and put him in charge of an aircraft carrier group.  Watch the fun begin…)   The process is still in the early stages, however.  How can you tell?  The biggest move of the summer by far was getting a household name for a coach.  In their only significant player move the Knicks got rid of one of the two guys on their roster who actually worked pretty hard at his craft, Renaldo Balkman.  Meanwhile they retain Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, and Jerome James, all of whom were voted “Most Likely to Submarine a Team” by their respective classes.  Come to think of it, Jamal Crawford isn’t exactly a prize either.  Reach for the stars, I always say.  Unfortunately the stars they reached for turned out to be plastic sequins so gaudy that a Times Square hooker wouldn’t be caught dead sporting them.  When they built this team they envisioned those high-powered offensive players putting up 20’s every night.  They managed it in a way:  21st in scoring, 27th in field goal percentage, 27th in three-point percentage…oooh!  Dead last in assists!  The defense stinks.  The Knicks are good offensive rebounders (Oooh…ball!  Gimme!)  and average at drawing fouls.  Pretty much everything else registers in the bottom third of the league. 

 

How do you fix this mess?  Blow it up, blow it up, blow it up.  The papers go back and forth about whether they’re looking to move Randolph.  Who knows if Marbury will even show up, and for how long, and if they want him.  Some will speculate Mike D’Antoni’s system will be a breath of fresh air for a team that doesn’t seem concerned about playing defense anyway.  I don’t see Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion in this front court though.  I see a bunch of bloated guys who aren’t going to want to run for a whole season.  There’s also a distinct lack of outside shooting…pretty much a necessary component of any quick-shot offense.  The chances of them being good this year are roughly equivalent to the Yankee love in a BoSox fan’s heart.

 

NEW JERSEY NETS

Record:  34-48, 4th Atlantic Division, 10th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

Notable:

26th in field goal % 

 

Others:

25th in the league in scoring (95.8 ppg)

17th in opponent scoring (100.9 ppg)

23rd  in ppg differential (-5.1 ppg)

12th in opponent field goal %

24th in three-point % 

6th in free throw attempts per game

20th in free throw percentage

6th in assists

24th in steals

16th in blocks

18th  in turnovers

14th in opponent turnovers

Average offensive rebounding team

Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian, Keyon Dooling, Eduardo Najera, Jarvis Hayes, Brook Lopez (R), Ryan Anderson (R), Chris Douglas-Roberts (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic, Desagana Diop, Marcus Williams, Bostjan Nachbar

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Lawrence Frank

 

Key Players

PG:  Devin Harris, Keyon Dooling

SG:  Vince Carter, Trenton Hassell

SF:  Bobby Simmons, Jarvis Hayes

PF:  Yi Jianlian, Stromile Swift, Eduardo Najera

C:  Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Brook Lopez

 

 

Comments

 

I’m guessing Nets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe is a Dylan Thomas fan, as in:

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Facing their dotage, burdened until big names with long-toothed pedigrees, the Nets went for a near-total makeover.  Four of their five starters from the beginning of last season (Kidd, Jefferson, Collins, Krstic) are history.  Vince Carter is the lone holdout from the smooth, stat-producing Nets of old.  Devin Harris, scorer/slasher, is a hot, young commodity aching for a chance to fly.  Yi Jianlian had a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign in Milwaukee and is still looking to find his place.  Bobby Simmons was an up-and-coming stud before his injuries but the jury is out on him now.  It’s not a bad young team, but the dice are rolling at almost every position.  That’s not conducive to winning in the NBA.

 

I see three main problems with this roster as constructed.  First, if Vince Carter goes down for any reason this team is in trouble.  He’s been fairly healthy the past three seasons and the Nets better keep him that way.  Even with him at full strength teams will have more incentive to throttle him this year than before.  I’ll take my chances with Harris, Simmons, and YJ trying to beat me for 48 minutes.  Second, that front line is probably as bad as it looks.  Those power forwards lack power.  Josh Boone has shown himself to be a good 26-minute player.  There’s no doubt he can rebound and he hits the shots he takes.  But he’s undersized and unproven as a starter.  It’s a fair bet he’ll take some time to adjust.  Finally, where is the outside shooting coming from?  A lot of guys on that team just can’t hit.  Opponents are probably going to clog the lane and dare New Jersey to beat them outside.  It should work too.

 

I admire what the Nets are trying to do.  You have to know when it’s time to change course.  They’re just not to the point yet where the change is going to register strongly in the win-loss column.  They’ll probably spend the year finding out more about their young players, keeping a sharp eye out for decent Vince trades, and plotting their greatest needs for next year’s draft.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)