Nets fans are in a funk, mainly because of uncertainty: uncertainty about Kyrie Irving’s contract; uncertainty about Ben Simmons’ back — and mental health; uncertainty about Joe Harris’ two ankle surgeries and Seth Curry’s one. Not to mention what the roster will look like next year, etc.
But at least they’re better than the Knicks, right? RIGHT!?
Steve Popper, who covers the Knicks for Newsday, questions whether that is even true. Well isn’t that a bit extreme. The Nets at least made the playoffs. The Knicks didn’t that far. Popper’s point is that the uncertainty Brooklyn faces can overwhelm the issues Manhattan faces.
The Nets could be a championship team if everything goes right, but what are the chances? What are the chances that Kyrie Irving buys into the demand for accountability that Sean Marks and Steve Nash finally expressed in their postseason news conference? What are the chances that Ben Simmons is healthy both mentally and physically and ready to play every night? How much longer can Kevin Durant carry the franchise on his slender shoulders?
(That last one is underappreciated.) As for the Knicks, Popper sees other issues.
The Knicks could contend that they were on the way two years ago when they were 41-31 and earned a playoff berth for the first time in eight seasons, when Tom Thibodeau was the Coach of the Year and Julius Randle earned an All-NBA spot. And even in the struggles of last season, when fans were crying for Thibodeau to be fired and Randle to be — fill in the blank with your wish: traded, benched, released — they could point to RJ Barrett and a roster of young, developing pieces as beacons for hope.
It’s “dysfunctional stars on one side. Young team banking on player development and hoping that will attract a star” on the other. He also notes, accurately, “it will be very difficult for either of these teams to change its path right now.”
And while Knicks might (no, would) agree with the assessment of the Nets, Popper warns their pride could have a short shelf life, adding some fresh intel about the trade value of their best asset, Randle, who’s in year two of a five-year, $140 million deal.
Well, before Knicks fans feel too good about themselves, what do you think the value is right now on the trade market for Randle, their best player? Some executives at the NBA Draft Combine speculated that the Knicks would have to add an asset to the contract, and even with that, wouldn’t land a star in return. They also are capped out thanks to last summer, when they had the most cap space in the league and came home with Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker and extensions for Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.
In the end, Popper seems to argue that despite all the Nets issues, the Knicks have problems that are less likely to be resolved quickly.
The Knicks’ roster of young players is a promising start but still needs an upgrade. Bragging about eight players under 24 years old doesn’t mean as much when you compare the level of talent to that of teams equally set with young talent under contract but with a much higher ceiling, teams such as Boston and Memphis.
The decision about which team you’d rather be at least comes with this bit of positivity: Neither one of the franchises is the Lakers.
A lot about both teams will be known in about six weeks after the draft — The Knicks have the No. 11 pick overall — and the first wave of free agency and a return to trade season. But the final tally won’t come for a year.
- Would you rather be the Knicks or the Nets right now? - Steve Popper - Newsday