Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
Little by little, life returns to normal in New York City and its surrounding communities. But as late as Saturday, I ran into a woman who lives in Long Beach, a small community in Long Island that was absolutely decimated by Hurricane Sandy. Her home stands and she’s in high spirits, but her home is still without heat.
Another casualty of Hurricane Sandy was the originally scheduled Nov. 1 home opener for the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.
Finally, 25 days later than we thought, we’ll see the New York Knicks and the Nets square off.
But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Thus far, the Knicks have not so quietly been one of the NBA’s best teams. Entering play on Nov. 23, the Knicks were tied for the Memphis Grizzlies for the league’s best record, and after losing to the Houston Rockets and defeating the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks will visit Barclays Center with a record of 9-3. That’s quite impressive.
Quietly, though, the Nets have put together an impressive run of its own.
Although Joe Johnson has struggled shooting the basketball—he’s shooting just 40 percent from the field—Brook Lopez is quietly reverting to his pre-injury form. For all the Knicks have accomplished, the Nets will tip-off against them a mere one game behind in the standings at 8-4. The Knicks and Nets are currently the respective second and third seeded teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
A Nets win would give the teams an identical 9-4 record after 13 games. And that’s not a prediction, it’s merely a fact.
Who saw that coming?
Having played a dozen games each, we have perspective. We know who the Knicks are—a defensive team that doesn’t turn the ball over and lights you up from beyond the arc. And today, we know who the Nets are—a team that excels in a half court game, protects its home court, and gets fairly balanced scoring from its top guns.
For each team, the Nov. 26 showdown will be the third game in four nights, but each team has been looking forward to this matchup for quite some time. Both teams will enter the game on a high note, as the Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, 121-100, and the Nets defeated the Portland Trailblazers at Barclays Center, 98-85.
Both teams are relatively healthy and both teams know its own strengths and weaknesses. At this point, it should also be aware of each other’s.
The Knicks, for example, are the third highest scoring team in the NBA, scoring 103.4 points per game. But they need to hit three pointers to get there. Collectively, they make 12.2 threes per game, and that’s first in the league. So if you defend the three point line, they are beatable.
Carmelo Anthony is a handful. He’s playing power forward, and though he surrenders girth to bigger forwards like Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies and even Kris Humphries, his speed and agility on the perimeter is often too much for them.
But with someone who’s as nimble, similarly built, and similarly strong—someone like Gerald Wallace—the possibility of neutralizing Anthony increases.
Meanwhile, for the Nets, they’ve made a consistent effort to feed Brook Lopez and in return, he’s getting better at reacting to defenses and picking and choosing his spots. He’s had his way with his fair share of opposing centers, but he hasn’t had to compete with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler.
Deron Williams and Raymond Felton share the same birthday and the two have known each other for quite some time. Felton feels that he doesn’t receive the credit he deserves for being a solid NBA point guard and is the only Knick player to publicly acknowledge the Nets as rivals. This is an opportunity for him and you best bet, he’ll do his best to seize it.
All in all, the Knicks and the Nets are two of the conference’s more formidable teams and we are in for a rivalry and a treat.
The 12 games have given us perspective, but now, the 13th game will give us the long awaited first.
Finally, we’ll see if Carmelo Anthony can score against Gerald Wallace and if Brook Lopez can score against Tyson Chandler.
We’ll see if Joe Johnson continues to be a worse three point shooter than Ronnie Brewer.
Deron Williams will have the opportunity to show Felton why Williams is considered the best point guard in New York and Anthony, why some say he’s the city’s best player.
We’ll find out if Jason Kidd and Deron Williams compete as hard with each other on the basketball court as they do on the golf course.
And finally, we’ll see which team ends up victorious in New York’s first ever intra-city NBA competition.
It’s November, not May. The stakes are low. Even still, in a city that eats, sleeps and breathes basketball, Monday’s game will be quite exciting.
It’s the first, but definitely not the last.
It’s also 25 days later than we expected.
And it’s about damn time.
Moke Hamilton is the Executive Editor of SNYNets.com. Follow @SNYNets on Twitter for the Latest on all things Brooklyn Nets.