What's Wrong With New York Basketball?
by Wayne Root
Contributing Sportsbook Editor
I'm the master of finding SHOCK THE SYSTEM surprises. But, even I have to admit that I didn't see the twin early season COLLAPSES of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets coming. There's still plenty of time for either, or both of these teams to get things going in the right direction in the extremely bad Eastern Conference. But...that just makes things seem worse! The Knicks and Nets are losing in an extremely bad conference!
Brooklyn: 5-12 straight up, 6-11 against the Vegas spread
New York: 3-13 straight up, 4-12 against the Vegas spread
How can two teams who were projected to win about 50 games this season start off with a combined 8-25 record?! And, for that matter, how can Vegas oddsmakers be so slow off the mark that they haven't been able to get the numbers in the right place. Simply fading the New York teams every night would have yielded a 23-10 won-lost mark on your bets. Okay, nobody would have done that right out of the gate. After a week...it was clear both teams were overrated, and the profit gained from fading them would have been large.
What's gone wrong? Here's what the two teams have in common:
Ownership that spent money very unintelligently
Ownership that hired coaches who aren't great matches for their talent
Veteran players who aren't interested in exerting themselves this early
A lack of on-court leadership when things started to go south
Targets on their backs!
No matter how mediocre (or worse) most of the teams in the East are, they want to score a marquee victory over both of Gotham entries. And, since most of the East is young and hungry, if not particularly talented, that's lined up very well against disinterested veterans who had decided ahead of time to pace themselves for the long haul.
Once things started going badly, neither New York team had a mechanism to stem the tide. Carmelo Anthony isn't a team leader, he's a ball hog! He's not going to get his teammates to play better...and he sure isn't going to be a force on the defensive end. On the Nets, you have a group of individuals who think it's somebody else's job to lead. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were leaders in Boston. They haven't had time to hold sway over their new teammates.
The coaching? The Knicks tuned out Mike Woodson's emphasis on defense last year. Jason Kidd of the Nets seems to be in constantly over his head. You don't earn the respect of players by not knowing what to do!
These current slumps may go on for awhile longer. But, eventually changes will be made that will get things moving in the right direction. I don't know that either team will ever offer "value" in the betting lines. But, I don't expect these two teams to be 16-50 straight up after 66 games just because they were 8-25 after 33 games. Here's what I'll be looking for when deciding it's time to stop fading the Knicks and the Nets.
For New York
When the team starts playing defense!
When the offense starts making more treys and fewer turnovers
When the coach is fired (which may happen soon)
When the team plays with passion in front of their home fans
When the offense plays with more pace and ball movement
When the team starts playing with energy in the first half
When younger players step forward to de-emphasize seemingly disinterested veterans
I think that's the biggest gripe fans of both teams have right now. It's like the players don't even care that they're losing! They don't like being called losers. But, they're not taking the actions necessary to end the losing. At some point, the Knicks will bear down and guard people. And, the Nets will stop falling way behind in the first half. It won't be enough to scare Miami or Indiana at the top of the Eastern standings. It might be enough to cover some Vegas spreads.