Brooklyn Nets: Andrea Bargnani
December, 6, 2013
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com
Everybody’s safe. For the moment.
For now, there should be no talk of coach Mike Woodson’s future. Nor should there be talk about Carmelo Anthony's imminent departure. At this moment, all that should matter is that the Knicks won a game, ended their nine-game losing streak, witnessed a fire-in-the-belly no one knew existed in Andrea Bargnani and -- oh, by the way -- have clearly dismissed the notion that they are the worst team in New York City.
That odious title disturbingly belongs to the boys in Brooklyn.
In the aftermath of the Knicks' 113-83 drubbing of the Brooklyn Nets, the only conclusion to be drawn is that there can be no conclusion drawn about the boys in Manhattan following the massacre at the Barclays Center on Thursday night.
Bargnani was hitting shots. So was Melo. So were Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, and even Amar'e Stoudemire and Pablo Prigioni. All told, the Knicks shot 57 percent from the field and hit 16-of-27 shots from beyond the arc, embarrassing the Nets in such alarming fashion that it provoked a cause to pause:
Maybe instead of worrying about Woodson and Anthony, we should be more concerned with Nets coach Jason Kidd and his supposed star, Deron Williams.
“We got our butts kicked,” Kidd deadpanned. “You’ve got to give the Knicks credit. They came in shooting around 32 percent. Tonight they looked like the team of last year that made a lot of 3s. When they started the game off, it didn’t seem as if they were going to miss. But we stayed the course.”
I’m glad he thinks so.
Reality, however, illuminated that neither Kidd nor the Nets, collectively, have the slightest clue what a course looks like. The Nets simply look like straight garbage right now. They can’t seem to shoot, pass or play efficiently. Periodically, they vacillate between looking slow, lethargic or soft, and with Paul Pierce and Williams both injured, Kevin Garnett appears too aged to stop the proverbial bleeding.
The Knicks, as a result, had Christmas early on Thursday night, accentuated by the fact that the Barclays Center might as well have been Madison Square Garden: At one juncture, Nets center Brook Lopez was literally booed at the free throw line in his own house as Knicks fans completely drowned out whatever faithful followers the Nets would have you believe they possess.
"I think everybody looked like they had that feeling that we were tired of losing," said Anthony, who finished with 19 points. "It showed from the tipoff."
It needed to.
Let the Knicks tell you what they want, but chaos has permeated this franchise for the past several weeks. Losers of nine straight, mired with the second-worst record in the league, Woodson was in immense trouble, no matter what the Knicks say. Rumors swirled around the league that Melo can’t wait for the summer to arrive so he can get out of here. Noise was being made about in-fighting pertaining to Shumpert's stubbornness, Smith's discipline -- on and off the court -- and Thursday night’s encounter only exacerbated the situation.
After resembling a bunch of snipers all last season, the Knicks hadn’t blitzed anyone this season. Entering the game, they hadn’t shot better than 50 percent from 3-point-range all season long. Yet, the Knicks made 63 percent of their 3s within the first three quarters. Shumpert -- of all people -- made five 3s. Even Stoudemire made five of his six shots, pausing the noise. At least momentarily.
Now, everything appears right for the Knicks entering Friday’s game versus Orlando. Suddenly, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just one win over the Brooklyn has quelled the negative momentum, hints of panic by the Knicks’ brass appears to have subsided, somewhat.
But it still doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods. The Knicks' next eight games are all deemed winnable, with a couple against Boston, one against an Atlanta team they’ve already beaten, plus Cleveland and Milwaukee on their schedule.
“We ended our losing streak; now it’s time to build off of this and move forward,” Woodson explained.
To do that, the Knicks will have to do most of what they did on Thursday night: be aggressive, hit shots, remain in attack mode and pray that Tyson Chandler returns quick, fast and in a hurry.
Until then, the Knicks are still a doormat -- in the pathetic Eastern Conference, for crying out loud. They entered Friday still nine games under .500, still devoid of a perimeter game and still perceived as a franchise on a fast track to irrelevancy. The kind of franchise who’ll have a new coach next season and, quite possibly, some other player to lean on outside of a star (Melo) who still may depart.
“I haven’t said I’m going anywhere and I’m not saying that now,” Melo reportedly said. “I don’t know where anyone would get that from.”
Hmmm! How about we’ve got it from a Knicks team still in possession of the third-worst record in the league.
That may not have mattered Thursday night with the Brooklyn Nets to deal with. But there are always the days ahead to consider.