The 2010-2011 NBA season starts tonight for the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. With that in mind, I reached out to the folks at SB Nation's Posting and Toasting, which covers the Knicks, and Nets Daily, which covers the Nets, and asked a handful of questions.
Below are the questions, and the answers from representatives of each site.
1. What did you learn about your team in the preseason?
Posting and Toasting: We learned that the Knicks might actually protect the rim this year, even if they don't rebound. We learned that Timofey Mozgov and Landry Fields are way better than anyone expected, but Anthony Randolph might need some time. Above all else, we learned that, when in doubt, it's best to just give the ball to Amar'e Stoudemire.
NetsDaily: In short - not enough. Last week Coach Avery Johnson summed it up. "We need work and we need more practice time and we need more preseason games. Unfortunately, they are only two more preseason games left. We probably could use about seven more."
He was being optimistic, because with only four players returning and several young players graduating to roles with increased responsibility, it's possible it could take an entire season for the coach to properly evaluate his team.
This preseason was further hampered by an injury to the starting PF, Troy Murphy and a trip to Russia and China that wasn't exactly ideal for a new team trying to establish a routine.
So what did we learn? Not much. Coach Johnson did a lot of mixing and matching and experimenting with different styles. That made it hard to trust impressions of how the team or individual players will play. However, they did play with good effort. The players were definitely buying what the coach was selling.
And that is a very important thing, especially for a team with no clear leader on the court.
2. Both the Knicks and Nets seem to be slugging it out for Carmelo Anthony. How will you feel if your team DOES NOT end up with 'Melo?
Posting and Toasting: Well, if the Nets snatch up Melo, that won't be good. As long as he stays a Nugget, though, I'll be happy. The Knicks have a splendid stable of young talent to work with and shouldn't feel pressured to empty out for one guy. If another team threatens to get a deal done, then Donnie Walsh will have to weigh his options. Until then, the Knicks can lie in wait and grow organically.
NetsDaily: The best reason to trade for 'Melo is to establish the Nets as the meeting ground for the next group of star players to congregate and try for a title. That prospect is much more enticing than what the roster would look like after the trade to acquire him.
Either way, the Nets have had the best offer on the table for some time now and they have done everything they can to make the deal work.
I (and I am sure the Nets) would prefer Devin Harris is part of the deal rather than Troy Murphy. If they can't get a team involved to make that happen, it will be disappointing. It's mostly because of the contracts, but I also think Harris is more replaceable as the roster is constructed.
3. In 1-2 paragraphs, what are your expectations for the 2010-2011 season?
Posting and Toasting: I expect the Knicks to defend better than they have in a decade. I expect them to start slowly but find themselves in early December. I expect better late-game execution than we've seen in years past. Come springtime, I expect the Knicks to make the playoffs. For serious.
NetsDaily: They are pretty low, actually. The Nets executed a pretty good "Plan B" this offseason by signing young players who are easy to move and will also give them a competitive team on the court. They maintained the flexibility they need if they can entice players like 'Melo or Chris Paul to come aboard - but if they don't, they have a developing roster with young players like Brook Lopez, Terrence Williams and Derrick Favors who all have a chance to be star players. Lopez (22) could be an All-Star this season and Coach Johnson has already started campaigning for T-Will (23) as Sixth Man of the Year.
They also have plenty of cap space after the season and some good draft picks to go along with a motivated owner who will pay whatever it takes to win. Those factors could make the Nets one of the few legitimate buyers at the trade deadline.
But even if the team that ends the season is the same as the one that started it, it will be nice for Nets fans to watch a real, competitive NBA team with a qualified coach and an owner who cares about winning in a sweet, modern arena. They have young, exciting players with new opportunities and something to prove. It's quite a turnaround!
4. Your team's overall record will be?
Posting and Toasting: 43-39. If I change my prediction enough, I'll be guaranteed to get it right!
Nets Daily: 29-53. Seventeen more wins and perhaps some meaningful games after the All-Star break.
Thanks to the folks at both sites for their insights. The Knicks will be in Toronto tonight to face the Raptors. The Nets will be home at the Prudential Center to face the Detroit Pistons.
Both of the local squads seem to have reason for optimism as the new NBA season starts. It should be interesting to see how it plays out.