Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Who wins the Atlantic, Knicks or Nets?
Steve Aschburner: So we’ve given up on Boston, eh? The Celtics were my pick coming in. The Knicks and the Nets both are flawed teams, too. They’re led by stars (Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams) with shaky reputations as winners. Each has a big man (Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez) performing at an All-Star level. Each relies in part on a former knucklehead (J.R. Smith, Andray Blatche), each has oldsters and so on. I’ll take New York, narrowly, for three reasons: I like their chances of playing defense to coach Mike Woodson‘s specifications the rest of the way, I think Amar’e Stoudemire can bring real second-half help and I think the Woodson bump that Brooklyn has gotten from coach P.J. Carlesimo will be hard to sustain over another 40 games.
Fran Blinebury: Never thought the 3-ball attack that was so much a part of the Knicks’ red-hot start was going to carry them through a full season. P.J. Carlesimo has tapped into Deron Williams, Brook Lopez is rounding into form and Joe Johnson is stepping up. I’ll take the Nets in a hot Battle of the Boroughs race.
Jeff Caplan: You know what? I like what the the Nets are doing. These guys have shown a real maturity in allowing P.J. Carlesimo to take over and do his thing. It’s actually darn inspiring considering what’s gone on in Los Angeles with that third coach over there. The Nets’ win at the Garden the other day was big for those guys. With the Knicks, injuries are a real issue right now and it could really have a negative effect on Jason Kidd down the stretch. Give me the boys from Brooklyn.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I picked the Nets at the start of the season to win the Atlantic. I’ll stick with that, partly because it’s too easy to make a bunch of switches during the season (Lakers to win the West!) and partly because the Nets have had some bad moments and are still on the Knicks’ heels.
John Schuhmann: It’s a tough call. The Nets have been the much better team of late, but they have a slightly tougher schedule (fewer home games, more back-to-backs) going forward and I imagine both teams will have their highs and lows over the final three months. I believe the Nets were underachieving offensively early on, but I also believe that the Knicks’ ability to take care of the ball (lowest turnover rate in NBA history) and the eventual return of Raymond Felton will help them sustain offensive success.
If either team had shown sustained defensive success in the first half of the season, I’d believe in them more. The Knicks defended well for the first few weeks of November, but have been pretty awful there since. And though they’re 11-2, the Nets have ranked just 12th defensively in P.J. Carlesimo‘s time on the bench.
So yeah, I think it’s really even. And I’ll give the Knicks the slight edge, because they already have a two-game lead in the loss column.
Sekou Smith: Two weeks ago, I’d have told you the Knicks … easy. Then, P.J. Carlesimo showed up and started coaching like he did at Seton Hall. My gut says the Knicks have another roll or two in them between now and the end of the regular season. But the Nets have the balance and some wicked momentum right now on their side. Barring anything crazy happening at the Feb. 21 trade deadline, this thing goes down to the final days of the season with the Nets clipping the Knicks at the tape.