For basketball fans in New York, the upcoming NBA season is really all about next year. July 1, 2010, to be precise; the exact moment when free agents like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh hit the market. It’s a strange year because you won’t have much to root for and apart from a few core players; the Knicks and Nets will be willing to trade away players in exchange for cap space next summer. And don’t forget Knicks’ fans, former GM Isiah Thomas traded away the 2010 number one pick for Stephon Marbury, so the draft lottery isn’t a possibility.
New York brought back David Lee and Nate Robinson in the offseason and added Darko Milicic via trade. They drafted Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas, but neither is expected to play much initially, so it is basically the same squad as last year with a healthy Danilo Gallinari in the mix.
That club won 32 games, which is probably right around where this year’s club could finish. But remember that the focus is on 2010 and maximizing cap space. That means Donnie Walsh is going to try and get someone to take Jared Jeffries (possible) and Eddy Curry (not unless Isiah becomes GM somewhere else) off his hands. Maybe a contending team wants Al Harrington and is willing to take Jeffries as part of the deal. That would make the Knicks worse this year, but in better shape in 2010 and that is what this season is about.
For the Nets there are more questions off the court than on them. Will they play in Newark this year? Will they ever move to Brooklyn? Will they have a Russian billionaire as an owner? On the court they have two nice pieces in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. But, after trading Vince Carter, they are going to have trouble putting the ball in the basket. Unless Yi Jianlian suddenly develops (doubtful) there will be some very long nights wherever they end up playing in New Jersey. But, just like the Knicks, it’s not about this year.