So far, New York has been treated to three compelling, competitive games between the Knicks and Nets, who are battling for the top of the Atlantic Division. The Knicks have a 2-1 season series lead coming into this afternoon's fourth and final "Battle Of The Boroughs" showdown (or as we like to think of it, "Battle Of The Boroughs: Zoso"). Yet again, we've deployed our two basketball beat writers, Jon Fishner (Knicks) and Derek Evers (Nets), to elevate the conversation (via IMs). Let the trash talking commence.
A Tale Of Trash Talking
Jon Fishner: I'm so glad to see Deron Williams is trying again.
Derek Evers: Yeah, well you know, he just needed to get rid of the distraction of someone on the team having more say than him. Now that he's taken care of that pesky head coach issue, it should be smooth sailing. It could also be because he's getting healthier, which is more than can be said for the Knicks. Don't you think it would just be cheaper for them to rent a hospital wing for road trips instead of hotel rooms?
Fishner: I think hospital wings are pretty expensive, although I hear the Four Seasons in Philadelphia isn't cheap...
Fishner: With Shump and STAT back, it's Felton that's the missing piece. And he's due back next week. As far as Camby/Sheed, I don't think they can rely on either of them. I think they need to go sign someone. The Heat just signed Birdman, so you know that former Nugget is out. I like Kenyon Martin, assuming he's in shape. He can rebound, defend and he's a former Nugget. The Knicks seem to love former Nuggets.
Evers: Yeah, but why just focus on the people still playing? Woodson coaxed Sheed out of retirement, he surely can do it with someone else. Ewing? I heard Hakeem's looking for work.
Fishner: If Ewing came out of retirement, Jordan would have to come out of retirement to keep him from winning a championship. That would be pretty interesting.
Fishner: Maybe the Nets could be the ones that get him.
Evers: Man, if Hova could pull off getting MJ out of retirement, it would just complete the marketing circle. Who needs to win championships when you could be selling jerseys with Brooklyn on the front and Jordan on the back? I think it relegate all other jerseys to sale items.
The Importance Of Being Brook Lopez
Evers: So we talk a lot about the rivalry between these two teams, but this is essentially a battle of division titans. Do you think both teams can keep up this pace heading into the playoffs?
Fishner: I think the Knicks, who are just 5-5 in their last ten, will pick it up some, especially over the next couple of weeks. Their schedule gets a lot easier and they'll get Felton back. Shumpert will get into the swing of things and Stoudemire might too. But they're going to have a really, really tough March. They play NINETEEN games in March. As far as the Nets, they look really good lately. As long as they're reasonably healthy I think they're capable of winning 45 or more games.
Fishner: Speaking of healthy players and things that make me confused, Carmelo Anthony and Brook Lopez have essentially the same PER this season. In my opinion, he's the key to the Nets. I know I'm not alone in that. Or is it something else?
Evers: No, I think you're on point. We saw that when he went down. In fact, I feel bad for Avery because the team's slump coincided with Lopez's injury. Chances are he's still coaching the team if Brook doesn't go down for the month. It's strange, because they're a very deep team. Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche can fill the stats, but they have no big men on the bench without Lopez on the floor. I'm more worried of losing him again than I am of D-Will.
The Return Of "Old Melo"?
Evers: So Carmelo fasting during the season. Breaking down against KG. Having his on-court conversations taped. Is this the start of "Old Melo" creeping back into the picture?
Fishner: I drowned the spirit of the Old Melo in a bathtub as part of a seance.
Fishner: I think the Old Melo will always pop in and out from time to time, but I do think we are looking at a player who's tweaked his game ever so slightly—he now has just enough passing and defense to make him a complete player. When he's not playing (and he has missed seven games this season), you see how much they need him.
Fishner: He's a guy who can go get a basket at any time. Kobe, Duncan, Pierce, championship teams usually have this kind of player. Do the Nets have one? Who is it? Joe Johnson?
Evers: Nah, I don't think they have that player. Nor do I think they need one... yet. I think management just wants a playoff run of some sort, the deeper the better. And when 4-5 guys average double digits per night, I think they have a good chance of doing that. They don't have the guy who can take over a game, but they also don't have anyone you need to key on.
Evers: But back to Melo... is that too much to ask of him? Especially with such a fragile team? More importantly, the Knicks depend so much on the three pointer (the last game in Brooklyn they averaged a better shooting % from outside the arc than inside), can they go deep with that formula?
Fishner: I think it can work in the East. But when the Knicks go against the teams out West, they tend to get bullied. There are too many teams with size out there. As far as three point shooting, the whole league is moving in that direction. They're good at it. It might result in the occasional blowout loss, but I think they can win multiple playoff series with it.
Evers: And hey, Dolan and Melo go together like Dolan and Isiah.
Fishner: Lucky for Melo. There's no better place to be than in Dolan's good graces.
Fishner: Ask Zeke, ask Allan Houston's financial planner.
Evers: Yeah, Houston's still collecting right?
Fishner: I think his contract comes off the Knicks cap next year.
Evers: There should be a parade.
Better Shop Around: Nets Edition
Fishner: I've heard Rudy Gay-to-Nets whispers. Would that make sense?
Evers: You know, I shouldn't type this out loud, but I think the Nets should try to pull of a blockbuster trade with D-Will. I think CJ and another quality PG could fill his 17/7 shoes. I would love to see Gay on the Nets, but I can't see them taking on that salary. And even if they did, the only way to get him is by giving up all your draft picks for the rest of the two-thousand and teens. They're already too handcuffed by D-Will and Joe Johnson.
Evers: But mark my word, the Nets WILL make a move before the deadline.
Fishner: I think you're right about that. Maybe they can trade Teletovic to the Timberwolves, they're always in the market for a certain kind of player. Other than draft picks, Marshon Brooks and, I suppose, Kris Humphries, what do they have to offer teams? Everyone makes so much money.
Fishner: Is Dwight still a possibility? Deron for Dwight straight up?
Evers: Yeah, the Tiberwolves are the pride of the melanin-free basketball fan. But there's always the multi-team trade options. I'm more for the Paul Millsap option just to give Lopez some breaks. I think the bigger and deeper the Nets are, the harder they are to defend. That's the way the team is structured, there's no way they can bring in a star without moving a max deal, and don't think they can do that.
Evers: Dwight's done.
Oh Yeah, What About Today's Game?
Fishner: So it's round four between these two teams and the Knicks are up 2-1. They don't play again for the rest of the season. The Nets are rolling and the Knicks come in rested after their one game week/trip to London. Is this a big game? Who needs it more?
Evers: I think it's a big game because this can (will) be the week the Nets takeover the lead in the division. That said, it's just another game on the way to both teams making the playoffs. It's going to be a fun spring for basketball fans in NYC.
Fishner: Yeah, the Nets are only two games back. The Knicks need to keep them in the rearview. I think a win for the Nets would really show the league this PJ-Deron turnaround is for real.
Fishner: Unfortunately, it's their last meeting of the season.
Evers: You don't see them meeting in the playoffs?
Fishner: Haha, good point. That would be exciting.
Evers: Ok, prediction time. What cereal do you think Gerald Wallace will tell Melo his wife tastes like?
Fishner: Gerald Wallace doesn't have a good frame of reference for that because he doesn't eat cereal, he eats rocks. And we can all agree LaLa doesn't taste like granite.
Fishner: Alright, what's your prediction for the game?
Evers: The Nets are going to even up the season series with a dominant inside performance against a Knicks team who is painfully thin on big men. The real question is not the score, but how many rebounds Reggie Evans will have. Is this the game he breaks 30? Nets by 10.
Fishner: Oh god, now that you mention it, it's Reggie Evans that's going to get Melo suspended until April. I think the well-rested Knicks get a hard fought victory. But it won't be easy.
Fishner: Good luck, maybe we'll talk in April.
Evers: Let's hope!