During the morning of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce press conference, I couldn’t find a single basketball fan, Nets, Knicks, or otherwise, that thought the Knicks could beat the Nets this season. J.R. Smith doesn’t agree with any of them.
“It’s an unbelievable move for [coach Jason Kidd] to have a team like that to start off with in his first year,” Smith told Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com. “[The Nets] have a great chance to compete for a title, but I think we’re still the marquee team in New York.
“A lot of people are still counting us out just like they did last year, and we’ve got a lot to prove. I think we’re going to come out with a lot of edge and hopefully put it to positive use on the court.”
Not that I necessarily agree that the Knicks will be a better team than the Nets next year, but it does seem like evaluations of the Knicks have been a bit harsh this offseason and probably wouldn’t have been if the Nets hadn’t made such a big splash. They were still a 54-win team last year who didn’t lose any major talent, added some defense with Metta World Peace, and some solid players in Andrea Bargnani and Beno Udrih. So they lost Kidd? It’s not like he did a ton for them in the playoffs last year anyway.
So on some level I think Smith is right, the Knicks still are the team to beat. They were a 54-win team that hasn’t gotten much worse, if they’ve gotten worse. Meanwhile the Nets were a 49-win team that has undoubtedly gotten better on paper, but come with a few big question marks. Until the Nets actually beat the Knicks, I would say the Knicks are indeed the team to beat in New York right now.