King: 'Knicks are a team to beat'

Nets GM Billy King doesn’t see the Boston Celtics as his team’s only competition in the Atlantic Division.

“The New York Knicks are gonna be a team to beat in this division,” King told Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco on ESPN NewYork 98.7 FM Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s gonna be just Boston.”

Listen to the complete interview:

Play DownloadAsked if he was going to be paying more attention to the Knicks this season given his team’s move to Brooklyn, King replied, “Nah. I went in thinking the Knicks were gonna be good. They’ve got one of the best players in the league in Carmelo (Anthony), and they’ve got a good supporting cast.”

Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which they blew a 22-point lead and were outscored 32-10 in the fourth quarter, the Nets will take on the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night. The Miami Heat have beaten the Nets 10 straight times overall, and lead the NBA in points per game (111.8).

The Knicks stunningly beat the Heat by 20 at Madison Square Garden last Friday night.

“They made their shots (19 3-pointers) and didn’t turn the ball over (12 turnovers),” King said. “And that’s what you gotta do, so you can get your defense set."

“You can’t put them on the foul line and you’ve gotta not turn the ball over because they like to get out and run.”

Despite Brooklyn’s 1-1 start, King likes his team, “but we’ve gotta get better defensively.”

“That part of it is going to be a work in progress,” King said. “I think offensively, we can score with anybody. We’ve just gotta get that part of the game (defense) down if we want to be an elite team.”

While it’s an extremely small sample size, the Nets rank 26th in the league in points allowed per game (103.5). They struggled mightily on the defensive end in the fourth quarter of their season-opener, and in the final period on Monday night.

“I think we’ll get better,” King said. “Losing Gerald (Wallace to a sprained ankle) hurts because he gives us the ability to play small.”

King said Nets coach Avery Johnson made some adjustments in Wednesday’s shootaround to compensate for the loss of Wallace, who remains day to day.

King added that the Nets “aren’t in panic mode defensively, but we know we’ve gotta get better at it.” He thinks 20 games will be a good gauge to see where the team is defensively.

Under Johnson, considered a defensive-minded coach, the Nets have finished 21st and 29th, respectively, in defense the last two seasons.

Still, King believes the Nets will be a better team once their newcomers become acclimated to Johnson’s system and buy into it.