Tonight’s Knicks-Nets matchup features two teams that appear to be going in opposite directions. While the Knicks have recently caught fire under the guidance of rookie sensation Jeremy Lin, the Nets have simply looked lost all season. When you look past the consistent play of point guard Deron Williams and the potential of rookie MarShon Brooks, the team from New Jersey hasn’t looked like a team at all. In watching them play a handful of games this season (the Nets get full season coverage in NY on the YES network) I’ve often wondered what’s going on with this team. I’ve thought many times that this can’t possibly be the best product they can put on the court….and it isn’t. The reason for that is one that some may find smart, and others (like myself), may not believe in. The reason for the Nets struggles over the course of this year (and last year) can be attributed directly to their commitment to landing a superstar, in particular Dwight Howard. Although Dwight is by leaps and bounds the most dominant center in the game today, I find it to be extremely risky to wait on one guy; if you need proof New Jersey look no further than last season’s Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes….where you lost out.
Banking on one player to come in and revive a franchise is dangerous because of the message it sends to your franchise (and to its fans). It essentially admits that the team (as is) is incapable of winning, however admitting this truth (and this is a fact with this NJ squad, leave no doubt about that) could pave the path to change.
In today’s “Free Agency Era” a team as bad as the Nets could become title contenders by next season. One must give New Jersey credit for sticking to their plan (even though I don’t agree with it personally) of bringing in one or two more star players; but for their sake it better pan out. Howard has already made it known that he wants to be part of the move to Brooklyn, but those rumors have really calmed down over the past few months. Adding D12 would be a huge move for this team, but not adding him would now be a disaster. The team’s successful transition into New York seems hedged on the fact that the franchise will have at least two marquee players to sell merchandise and to help them compete as they are ushered into the new Barclays Center in the 2012-2013 season.
Should Dwight Howard decide to change his preference, the smooth transition becomes anything but, and will place an enormous amount of pressure on the Nets Management. To justify these past 2+ seasons of abysmal basketball, the Nets must make a splash in one way, shape or form. The fear I have is that should Dwight opt out of coming to New Jersey, and the Nets are unable to find another true star player, they may end up paying “star money” to just a good player in an effort to keep fans happy. A signing like a Joe Johnson (six years, $119 million) won’t begin to save this team, and will kill their only asset: their financial leverage. Having cap space and an abundance of draft picks to play with should make the Nets big players in the upcoming trade deadline/offseason free agency market, meaning they should remain patient until they can land true franchise changing talents.
The Knicks went from a similar position to being contenders through a formula of aggressively pursuing free agents (getting Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony), making smart acquisitions (Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith are two great pickups) and getting a little lucky (unless they knew Jeremy Lin was this good all along).
The Nets are a team that are really only one or two good players away from being in contention. They must not rush the process, but they must be aggressive in going after a star now! Tonight’s game between the Knicks & Nets should be nothing more than a way for Jeremy Lin to add to his fame and impressive stat line, and should help keep the Knicks’ (7-1 since they made Lin their starting PG) dominance going. Hopefully the Nets can pull their act together and by this time next season we will be talking up a Knicks-Nets showdown as the heated rivalry that it should be.
Are You Surprised By Lin’s Recent Success? What Should The Nets Do To Get On The Map? Let Me Hear It!