(Brook Lopez of the Nets against his brother Robin of the Knicks – @BrooklynNets)
It has been five years since the Knicks and Nets made trades that they thought would transform their franchises.
The Knicks brought in Carmelo Anthony from Denver for basically half their roster, and the Nets shocked the basketball world by getting Deron Williams out of Utah.
Anthony is one of the biggest superstars of the NBA and the Knicks felt that bringing him in to anchor the team with Amare Stoudemire, who was in his first season with the Knicks, would make them a playoff team, then eventually a contender.
Williams was an elite point guard at that time, and the Nets felt that he would be the centerpiece of the franchise as they got ready to move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
The reality has been far different, as neither team achieved the success they envisioned.
The Knicks have been through four General Managers/Presidents (Donnie Walsh, Glen Grunwald, Steve Mills, and Phil Jackson), four head coaches (Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, and Kurt Rambis).
The Nets have been through five head coaches (Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Tony Brown), and the assumption is Brown will be gone at the end of the year. Billy King was the General Manager until a month ago, and the team recently hired Sean Marks to replace him.
Incredibly, each team won just one playoff series, the Knicks’ in 2013 over the Celtics in the first round, and the Nets in 2014 over the Raptors.
The highest point for each team came in the 2012-13 season, as the Knicks won 54 games and the Nets won 49. Their playoff runs were short, as the Knicks lost to Indiana in the second round and the Nets lost to the Bulls in the first round.
The Knicks did not make the playoffs the following season, and brought in Phil Jackson to be president in March 2014.
The first year with Jackson did not go at all as they hoped, as he had to gut the roster and they won only 17 games, a franchise low.
The Nets’ response to losing in the 2013 playoffs was the trade with the Boston Celtics that brought in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The expectation going into 2013-14 for the Nets was an NBA championship. They fell well short, barely getting out of the first round with Toronto before losing in five to Miami.
They had to let Pierce and Shawn Livingston go after the season, and head coach Jason Kidd bolted after his one season in Brooklyn.
There were lower expectations heading into 2014-15, and they were lucky to make the playoffs, sneaking in with 38 wins and losing to Atlanta in the first round.
Last summer, the Nets bought out the remaining two years on Williams’ five-year contract.
Williams’ time with the Nets is marked by injuries and how he never lived up the hype of a franchise player. He came up small in the big spots, including missing a baseline jumper that would have won the game two of the first round series in Atlanta last season, followed by an infamous, memorable smirk.
Anthony is still with the Knicks, in the second year of a five-year contract. He has been what the Knicks expected, as he puts up 20 points a game and with the star power to lead a team in New York.
The problem is that Anthony is already wearing down, having surgery on his left knee last season and being hampered by pain there this season.
Presently, the Knicks are in far better shape, with a rising young superstar in Kristaps Porzingis and veterans like Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo.
The Nets still have Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, and Joe Johnson is in the final year of his contract. Aside from those three players, they have very little else, as they traded away three first-round picks to the Celtics. Basically, they will not even benefit from having one of the two worst records in the NBA this season.
Friday night at Barclays Center was the epitome of where these franchises are, as it was a “battle of interims” between the Knicks’ Kurt Rambis, in his second game as interim head coach, against the Nets’ Tony Brown, who took over on January 10.
In a game that was marked by streaks, the Nets outlasted the Knicks 109-98. This was their second win over the Knicks at Barclays Center, with the first coming on January 13.
Brook Lopez for the Nets led the way with 33 points on 13-for-23 from the field, with eight rebounds and two assists.
Brown said of Lopez, “Well, I thought he had a pretty good night – no question about it. He led us from beginning to end, and that’s what you expect from Brook and we want to see that every night. He’s been making a conscious effort to be aggressive, be in attack mode and there’s a couple of shots there late I didn’t like, but he figured it out and got closer to the rim. We can always get him jump shots, but I’d rather see him in the paint around the basket.”
Lopez said of there being more of a sense of optimism around the Nets with the hiring of Sean Marks as general manager and the opening of the training center, “Yeah, no question. We felt we came out well after the break and had two great practices in our new facility, and, you know, we felt like it was a good time to play against the Knicks especially. It’s always a high-energy, fun game, so it’s good to have it the first one out of the break. So it’s a step in the right direction.
“We’re 100 percent the Brooklyn Nets now. It’s an exciting thing to have. Everything is situated out here. We’re completely in New York and we obviously had a first, very positive step forward tonight.”