Roundtable: Knicks vs. Nets
Carmelo Anthony or Deron Williams? Manhattan or Brooklyn? Before the Knicks and Nets meet Tuesday night (ESPN, 7 ET), our crew debates which team is the king of New York.
1. Knicks or Nets: Better leading man?
Mike Kurylo, KnickerBlogger: Knicks. The Knicks have two leading men who surpass any on Brooklyn's roster. Carmelo Anthony is sporting the best PER of his career (24.0) while Tyson Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Whether you choose Brook Lopez or Deron -- both have a claim for Nets' best player -- they are one tier down from the Knicks' duo.
Beckley Mason, ESPN.com: Knicks. Until Deron Williams starts hitting jumpers, this isn't a fair fight. Carmelo is enjoying the most efficient shooting season of his career and his team is scoring like crazy when he's on the court. Meanwhile, the feisty second unit -- when Lopez was healthy and starting instead of Andray Blatche -- has been the biggest key to the Nets' early-season success.
Robert Silverman, KnickerBlogger: Knicks. If owner James Dolan hadn't upped the ante in 2011, both stars easily could've found themselves in the other borough, adding some serious "What if?" juice to this comparison. But by playing defense and sharing the rock in a manner that must haunt George Karl's fevered dreams, Melo tops Deron's career-low .392 shooting percentage and paltry 11.4 PPG over the last seven games.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Knicks. I've argued in favor of Deron Williams in the past, but Carmelo Anthony at power forward has been a revelation. According to 82games.com, the Knicks are a whopping 155 points better than their opponents with Melo at the 4 this season. Deron? Still waiting for the shooting stroke to come around (38 percent from the floor, 27 percent from long range).
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Knicks. It can seem easy to focus on what Carmelo isn't, but what he has become is one of the best pure scorers of this generation, and he's playing in his prime. With all due respect to Deron Williams' playmaking ability, Anthony's offense is worth the price of admission.
2. Knicks or Nets: Better uniform?
Kurylo: Nets. Brooklyn's black and white is a throwback to the golden age of hip-hop when groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A made monochrome dope. The Knicks' blue and orange is a throwback to the Dutch, who don't even use the color orange on their flag because, well, it's ugly.
Mason: Nets. My favorite uniform of either team is the Knicks' bright blue road uniforms. That said, I dock them for their two terrible alternate jerseys: the all-orange atrocities and the nonsense greenies. The Nets' faux-classic duotone getups have a lower peak value, but their consistency is important, giving the Nets the edge.
Silverman: Nets. Even if they stole their font/color scheme from the fictional Miami Sharks, Brooklyn's minimalist aesthetic -- paired with subtle flourishes, like the herringbone pattern in the side stripes -- trumps the Knickerbockers' failed retro mashup. The non-consecutive shoulder piping, the flattened 'NEW YORK' wordmark and the monochrome waistband look like a poorly rendered knockoff. Sad, considering how easy it would've been to revive this gorgeous 2010-11 throwback.
Widdoes: Knicks. Classic, without being too simple. They've actually become my favorite in the league. Love the color scheme -- the orange really pops, especially on the away blues.
Windhorst: Nets, big-time. The Knicks supposedly changed their uniforms this season, but I can't really tell. What they should've done was hire the firm that the Nets used, because they have the cleanest and most impact rebranding we've seen in the league in a long time. Usually it takes a few years to get used to a new color scheme, but the Nets' was classic instantly.
3. Knicks or Nets: Better arena?
Kurylo: Knicks. The Barclays Center may be near the Long Island Rail Road and a number of subway stations, which is fine for true Gothamists and "Lawn Guy Landers." But if you live north of the city, the Garden is a short jaunt from Grand Central. If you're west in New Jersey, it's easier to take the PATH, NJ Transit or the Lincoln Tunnel. Only the most hard-core Nets fans will brave the traffic quadfecta that is the Holland Tunnel, crosstown on Canal Street, the Manhattan Bridge and Flatbush Avenue to see their team.
Mason: Knicks. The most important thing about an arena is the people who show up, and the Barclays crowd just doesn't have the same energy yet. It may not always be pretty, but how many NBA crowds have more personality and passion than the ones at the Garden. Now, if you want to talk best floor or best food, both of those honors go to Brooklyn.
Silverman: Knicks. The Barclays Center may win serious points for amenities and overall design, but Madison Square Garden, one of the few old-school NBA arenas that hasn't met the wrecking ball, wins on pure history. Willis Reed limping out of the tunnel, Michael Jordan dropping a double-nickel, Joe Frazier battering Muhammad Ali -- all the rubles Mikhail Prokhorov dropped can't top that.
Widdoes: Nets, but Phase 2 of the Garden renovation was certainly a step in the right direction. Barclays Center is just more intimate, with great sightlines from the moment you enter and a really cool view of the practice court from the concourse. And, of course, it has the Oculus.
Windhorst: Knicks. Barclays is a forward-looking arena; it's smaller, with dozens of specialized seating options and WiFi that works for everyone. But the Garden is the Garden, and now that its renovation is nearly complete, it is right up there with the best in the league. Plus, it has an unrivaled history in the center of New York City.
4. Knicks or Nets: Better borough?
Kurylo: Knicks. You're kidding, right? As a New Yorker who remembers the '70s (and parts of the '80s and '90s), Brooklyn is certainly safer and cleaner these days. However, people have removed lots of what made Brooklyn Brooklyn: the charm, the grit, the braggadocio. In other words, it's trying to be a Manhattan, but without the Empire State Building, Wall Street, Times Square, etc. No contest.
Mason: Nets. Oh man, what an impossible question. I happen to like open space and being able to afford food, so I'll say Brooklyn. It doesn't hurt that I'm so close to Manhattan that I can get anything I want from it without paying the tax of living there.
Silverman: Nets. As someone who grew up on the Upper West Side, it pains me to say this, but Brooklyn's been the cultural, intellectual and artistic epicenter of New York City for 15-odd years now. Easily mockable hipsters and/or HBO's "Girls" notwithstanding, if you're seeking the innovative, diverse, exciting populace New York City is famous for; you're heading to Kings County.
Widdoes: Nets. After spending years in Manhattan, I couldn't be happier to live in Brooklyn. There is just more space and more community, and the food is great. All within a short subway ride of all Manhattan has to offer.
Windhorst: Knicks. My time in Brooklyn has been limited, and the way its residents rave about it and its growth shows; people must love it. Frank Sinatra didn't sing "Brooklyn, New York." And when the Nets' Jay-Z sings about the inspiring big lights, he wasn't referring to those in Park Slope.
5. Knicks or Nets: Better team?
Kurylo: Knicks. The Knicks have the Eastern Conference's best record and have trumped the Miami Heat twice. Brooklyn dropped the first one to the Heat by 30 points. And in the second match the Nets melted like the cheese on Grimaldi's pizza in the second half, getting outscored 52-30. How unfortunate that the Nets move into New York City when the Knicks have their best team in over a decade!
Mason: Knicks. In Marc Stein's latest Weekend Dime, an East scout said he thought the physical-but-slow Nets were better because the team has "pieces that make sense." Maybe in 1999. This Knicks team is built for the present and future with a lethal pick-and-roll attack, dead-eye shooters and a scorer who shifts the defense. Sound familiar? It's the profile of the last two NBA champions.
Silverman: Knicks. There are substantial questions still to be answered about this veteran-laden New York team (Amar'e, anyone?), but the Knicks are second in offensive rating (112.5) and fourth in point differential (7.6), and they average the fewest turnovers per game (10.9). Brooklyn isn't far off, but the Knicks (shockingly) are smarter, better-coached and have a defined, playoff-ready identity.
Widdoes: Knicks. Even without Shumpert and Stoudemire, they've jumped out to the best record in the East by protecting the ball and shooting the lights out (56.4 true shooting percentage, third-best in the NBA). It might not be sustainable to this degree, but I trust their defense and depth more than Brooklyn's.
Windhorst: Knicks. They are playing some terrific team-oriented basketball at the moment and are proving to be one of the East's deepest teams. Certainly the Nets have suffered recently with Lopez's injury, but the Knicks have been battling injuries all season and still have the conference's best record.