If there’s one team that’s dealt with as much Melodrama as the Knicks or Nuggets, it’s the New Jersey Nets. The team was reportedly close to a deal for Anthony on more than one occasion, but at this point it looks like they’ll come away empty-handed. With this in mind, I started off our pre-game interview with Mark Ginocchio of Nets Are Scorching with a few questions about Carmelo. But if you’re tired of all the rumors, fear not; Mark also had plenty to say about the Nets and what to look for in Saturday’s game.
Knickerblogger: How did Nets’ fans react after Mikhail Prokhorov pulled the plug on the Carmelo Anthony trade talks? Was there relief that the drama was finally put on hold, or was there anger at cutting the cord too soon?
Nets Are Scorching: From a fan base perspective, I think there was a huge sense of relief from the majority of Nets fans – or at least the majority who comment on blogs and show up at games (a “who needs ‘Melo” chant broke out in Newark the night Prokhorov made the announcement). Sure, having a scorer like Anthony would have been a huge lift for the Nets and they’re going to need a marketable star if they’re going to cut into the Knicks fanbase when they move to Brooklyn, but the trade talk had just gotten too far drawn out and way too public and was killing the morale of anyone associated with the team (players, coaches, fans, and ownership apparently). Also, I was part of a contingent of fans who thought the Nets were giving up WAY too much (a very good PG in Devin Harris, a true prospect in Derrick Favors, multiple lottery picks, a great shooter in Anthony Morrow and then some role players) and getting too much big money contracts in return (i.e. Rip Hamilton , Billups for an extra season and possibly Renaldo Balkman and/or Al Harrington) that it would have hamstrung the organization for years. You only get one chance to get a trade like that right, and if Anthony is not the game changer he’s being touted as (I don’t think he is), then you’re really stuck.
Knickerblogger: Where do you think Anthony will end up, and how do you think he’ll get there?
Nets Are Scorching: My guess is as good as anyone’s. The consensus seems to be the Knicks and it makes sense, but if Denver turns around and takes Chandler, Curry, Corey Brewer and a pick from NY/Minnesota after trying to dump every contractual issue on their roster on the Nets while extracting every last worthwhile asset they owned, then I’ll be really ticked. If I’m the Nuggets, I keep ‘Melo after the trade deadline and see if he’ll really risk getting a FA contract from the Knicks after the new CBA is determined. And if I’m the Knicks I do the same. You guys are going to get knocked out of the first round either way, so you might as well get the better financial deal out of it.
Knickerblogger: If the Nets don’t land Carmelo, are they looking to make any other moves before the trade deadline?
Nets Are Scorching: They got Troy Murphy’s expiring, which they have to deal at some point, though it sounds like they’ll only get a 2nd rounder out of it and I keep getting this sense that Devin Harris’ days in NJ are numbered. But I also wouldn’t be shocked to see them just sit on their picks and assets, see where they can draft in June, and figure it out from there.
Knickerblogger: As of Thursday, the Nets’ 16-37 record has them in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 7.5 games out of a playoff spot. What have been some of the team’s biggest problems this season?
Offense, offense and more offense. Yeah, the defense has some moments too, but honestly, the team has no go-to scorer outside of Brook Lopez, and he’s not much of a go-to scorer anyway. You get moments from guys like Anthony Morrow and Sasha Vujacic off the bench, and Devin Harris always has the potential to go off for some points, but this team is a mess offensively and I’m sure that’s why they were so hot for Anthony. They run one of the slowest paces in the NBA and despite having some decent outside shooters, they still don’t get enough spacing, and their ball distribution, aside from Harris, is generally awful. There’s also too many volume shooters like Travis Outlaw, who may be one of the worst regulars in the NBA getting 30+ minutes a game.
Knickerblogger: Despite their struggles, the Nets have shown some promise with wins over Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and most recently New Orleans. At the very least, this year’s performance has been an improvement over 2009-10. At this point in the season, what are the expectations for this team and what do Net fans have to look forward to in the future?
Nets are Scorching: They’re clearly a better team than last year, and while I’m sure Knicks fans will laugh at me, I also thought they were much better than they played last year too. But after November they didn’t have a real coach (Kiki Vandeweghe was more concerned about his outside-the-box shirt and blazer combinations then coaching) and they were never able to get out of their rut until late March. With that said, going forward, there has to be a priority on developing Derrick Favors this year. The kid has tools but they come in such brief moments that it can get lost. Avery Johnson said he was going to start running some more plays from Favors, but I haven’t seen it yet. He also doesn’t do himself any favors (ugh, pun not intended) by having such a laid back personality, which people confuse with no “fire.” But Favors is an athletic freak, is incredibly strong, has great instincts around the rim both offensively and defensively, that he’s only going to figure it out with repetition and confidence from his coaches and teammates.
Knickerblogger: When thinking about the Nets, Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are often the first two players that come to mind. But are there any other players that we should keep an eye out for?
Nets Are Scorching: As I mentioned earlier, Anthony Morrow has evolved into a serious weapon. Even when he’s having an off night, he’s always capable of drilling a three or a long-two which keeps teams who are otherwise not good defensively from slipping into a lazy zone against the Nets. Kris Humphries is quietly evolving into a very nice supporting player who can rebound with the best of them and is being more judicious in his shot selection. The last player I should mention is Travis Outlaw, who will give you all a good laugh when you see him pump fake 20 times before hitting the side of the backboard on a corner three. You can be thankful that the days of those players and contracts eating up the Knicks cap space are seemingly over.
Knickerblogger: What else should Knick fans know about the Nets coming into Saturday’s game? Is there an area where you think the Nets have an advantage over the Knicks?
Unlike last year, I just don’t like how the Nets match-up with the Knicks this season. They’re polar opposites in terms of pace, and the Nets are just not good enough offensively to get into a run and gun game with the Kincks. Granted, the Nets shocked the heck out of me when they took care of Denver last week, considering their offensive prowess, but Denver also doesn’t have a guy in the frontcourt like Amare who the Nets will not be able to match-up with defensively (Favors is still too foul prone, and Humphries, despite his rebounding, is not a good man defender). However, the Nets/Knicks match-up has been a favorite of mine for more than 20 years, ever since John Starks went thug-life on Kenny Anderson and destroyed probably the best Nets team of the 1990s (Kenny A, Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic!). So, I’m always look for some blood when these fugazis meet up.