Photo: Paul Pierce sounded almost sad to be traded out of Boston, but excited for the opportunity at another championship run in Brooklyn. (AP Photo)
When Paul Pierce, who has relocated from the Boston Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets, revealed his team's takeover plan in New York, you know there is going to be war brewing in the city.
Pierce, a self-professed Knicks killer, made these strong statements in separate interviews: “I think the hate, it’s grown a little. Everybody knows how much I dislike the Knicks as a Celtic but it’s grown to a whole other level. Now, it’s like crosstown, over the bridge, this is the rivalry. This is really the rivalry. … I think it’s time for the Nets to start running this city. [I hate the Knicks] with a passion. Let’s start it up right now. Let’s start the beef. It’s no secret that me and New York got history. It’s no secret. This is no secret. It’s already known.”
In short, Pierce and the Nets have declared war against the New York Knicks.
But could the Nets really supplant the Knicks as the Kings of New York? Let's do the best we can to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both teams for us to understand why. New York finished No. 1 in the Atlantic Division with 54 wins for the No. 2 seed while Brooklyn won 49 games and second in the division last season. The Knicks and the Nets split the season series 2-2. New York is coming off a first round win over the Pierce and the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. Pierce was eventually shipped along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn, which was eliminated by Chicago in the first round also last season.
No thanks to massive changes that happened to both teams in the offseason, things are different now. And let's start discussing...
The Knicks have lost several key players including Jason Kidd, who happens to be Brooklyn's new coach now, sharpshooter Steve Novak and Chris Copeland among others but acquired Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih and some promising rookies. They've also re-signed J. R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin to reasonable deals. Seasoned MWP and Udrih are nice pickups but I'm dumbfounded by the acquisition of Bargnani. The Italian is a pedestrian rebounder at best. His defense is also pitiful. The only way for Bargnani to fit well with New York is for him to make those outside shots as a stretch-4. If Detroit can play Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith up front why not New York's Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire or Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony? But we know it didn't work last year, right? Bargnani is just not the answer to what the Knicks lacked last year--defense.
Our projected starters for New York are Melo at power forward, Raymond Felton at point guiard, Tyson Chandler at center, MWP at small forward and Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. The second five are Prigioni at PG, Amar'e at C, Bargnani at PF, J.R. Smith and Udrih at the wings. Now let's see how they play defense.
Nets owner Mikhail Pokhorov has gone into a shopping spree and got Pierce, KG and Terry from Boston plus fellow Russian Andrei Kirilenko from Minnesota, Alan Anderson from Toronto, Shaun Livingston from Cleveland and talented rookie in Mason Plumlee in the rookie draft this year and let go of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, CJ Watson, Marshon Brooks and some excess baggage. They have a new coach in Kidd, who brought along former coach Lawrence Frank. With these acquisitions, the Nets should improve dramatically on both ends of the floor. Pierce and KG are never the players they once were but their presence both inside and out the playing court should be instrumental in Brooklyn's campaign in the coming season.
Imagine this starting lineup: Pierce at SF, KG at PF, Brook Lopez at C, Joe Johnson at SG and Deron Williams at the point. Their second five: AK47 at SF, Livingston at PG, Terry at SG, Andrey Blatche at PF and Reggie Evans at C? See how deep they are? But I can see three problems that could hound Brooklyn this year: Injuries, chemistry and coaching with Kidd still on his rookie season as bench tactician.
Prognosis: New York will still be New York--all offense, ghastly defense--but it’s where the Knicks thrived on and got some successes. Perhaps, Knicks management is seeing what we're not seeing in Bargnani. All things considered, New York remains a potent force. But, assuming we're in a perfect world and no season-ending injuries happen, Brooklyn has the edge in terms of experience with the addition of Pierce, KG and Terry, who have each won a championship. Besides, the three knows how to hate. They can preach their hatred for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the Nets and channel it to the Knicks. What's your take?
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