The NBA season formally (and finally) kicked off last night, but our beloved hometown teams the Knicks and Nets both start their seasons tonight (against the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively). Expectations for both teams are sky high, so we deployed our two basketball beat writers, Jon Fishner (Knicks) and Derek Evers (Nets), to preview the new season (via IMs). Let the trash talking commence.

Tyson Chandler and Lopez resume their dance this afternoon (AP)

Old Men, Chuckers, And Big Expectations

Jon Fishner: What are you expecting from the Brooklyn Celtics this season?

Derek Evers: In a word: Domination! In two words: Healthy optimism. In three words: Please, no injuries. It's obvious that this year will hinder on the health of their stars, but depth is key in the NBA, and the Nets have it in all facets—even their coaching—so I expect close to a 60-win season.

Fishner: Wow, sixty wins. I don't expect that from the Knicks or the Nets, especially since both teams plan on giving a lot of rest to old/creaky power forwards (Amare Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett). But close to sixty, that'll certainly win the Atlantic.

Evers: What about the Knicks? A relatively quiet offseason, but they did acquire Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace, so one would assume that they should be as good, if not better, than last year's squad, no?

Fishner: Everyone's talking about how the Knicks are due for a regression, but I think they experienced quite a bit of that during the second half of last year's regular season. Another year playing together, some fleshing out around the edges of the roster with Artest and Bargnani, and I think they'll pretty much match last year's win total. The East is stronger at the top but there are going to be some historically bad teams, so 54 wins is probably where they'll be again. The biggest issue the Knicks are going to face this season is their lack of a true backup for Tyson Chandler. He's their second most important player and they have no real backup for him. It's actually quite scary. Have one we can borrow?

Evers: Yeah, the Nets have plenty of size, so maybe we can work something out. I mean, you did sign Chris Smith (J.R.'s brother), and I know everyone has been clamoring for his skills. What about Tim Hardaway Jr.? Expect good things from him this season? And with him, Melo and Bargnani, is that too many shooters?

Fishner: You're very kind to continue to refer to Andrea Bargnani as a shooter. He hasn't looked good in the preseason and he seems to know the point that Melo had to tell the media to tell Bargnani to stop pump faking (I love the way my Knicks communicate). And Chris Smith...sigh. Why can't we just make secret payments to JR Smith like Prokhorov did to Andrei Kirilenko? We have to waste a roster spot too?

Here's a question for you, a lot has been made of health for the Nets, especially Garnett's health. But isn't it true that the player whose health is more up in the air than anyone's for the Nets is Deron Williams, and can they overcome it if he's hampered?

Evers: Did I say shooter? I meant chucker. But yeah, you make a good point. In my season preview, I noted that they're incredibly thin at the point with CJ Watson and MarShon Brooks gone. Obviously, Shaun Livingston is an upgrade to those two players, but he's tall, so could be a liability and Jason Terry will be coming off the bench. So it will be interesting to see how all these new players react if there's not a consistent person running the point. That said, they survived Deron William's inconsistencies last year, so I feel as though they'll be able to muscle and rebound their way through any prolonged D Will absence (until the playoffs). Hmmm, we have too many big men, you have a ton of point guards, maybe we should have a conversation with the GMs.

The Honey Nut Cheerios Bowl

Evers: So the topic everyone wants to discuss... what are you expecting from the Honey Nut Cheerios Bowl? Is it all behind us, or should we expect some fireworks come the Knicks / Nets match-ups?

Fishner: I think we're just getting started. There's some real animosity here and it'll be heightened this season. Last year there were some worrisome moments for Knicks fans but that was all tempered by the general idea that the Knicks were better than the Nets. This year, at least in the circles I travel in, there's real fear that the Nets might be the better team. And that means real vitriol. And now that you've got Pierce and Garnett mixed in with Melo and Chandler, it's combustible. It's exciting. And there's a decent chance both these teams get stuck behind Miami, Indiana and Chicago, meaning...

Evers: Playoffs baby! Although I still think the Knicks and Nets will wind up in the top half of the conference, meaning a tough road for one team to reach a second round matchup, but I foresee them finishing 2nd and 3rd and meeting each other in the conference semis. Indiana scares me, both them and Chicago are going to be tough, so we'll include them in the conversation: Do you think any of those four teams can take out the Heat in the East?

Fishner: I do. If Miami ends up playing Chicago or Indiana in the second round and gets beat up before the Eastern Conference Finals, there's a possibility. Imagine this scenario: LeBron plays the first round against Cleveland with free agency and a return there a real possibility, ESPN basically living on his lawn, and then they play a second round war with Chicago or Indiana. There's a good chance the Heat will be bloodied when they show up for the conference finals. Any of the next four could capitalize on that.

Another looming question for the Nets: is Jason Kidd ready to do this? Can he coach a contender?

Evers: Does he have to? His support staff is better than most teams' head coaches, and he has the luxury of a veteran squad, so I think his lack of experience will be a non-factor. One of the most overlooked aspect of hiring Lawrence Frank is the fact he was the assistant in Boston for Doc Rivers, so not only do you have an uber-experienced assistant coach, but one with working knowledge of the new guys, which will likely be key during tough stretches.

Season Predictions

Evers: Enough jibber jabber, let's get to brass tacks: give me your head-to-head prediction (four games) and playoff reality for these two teams.

Fishner: Here's my prediction: an even split in the regular season and a knock-down, drag-out first round playoff series that the Knicks win in seven games. But there's more. A Knicks-Nets series will formally cement basketball as New York's sport, overtaking baseball and the "Subway Series" forever. You'll have the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, establishing himself as the Nets' first fan, sitting at Barclays, I don't know, somewhere he can afford on a public servant's salary, with Dante next to him. But if these teams do meet in the first round, they won't be able to get much further. It'll take too much out of them. What do you think?

Evers: I'm expecting total dominance by the Nets, and that's not just fanboy talking. Considering the Nets and Knicks were all but even after the first month of last season, the substantial upgrades should push Brooklyn over the top. In fact, it will be like de Blasio playing Bloomberg one-on-one: Nets 3-1 in the regular season, and beating the Knicks in six games in the conference semifinals en route to a meeting with the Heat.