Scotto: Midseason Report Cards for Knicks and Nets

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knicks-vs-brooklyn-nets-at-barclays-centerBefore the season, championship expectations were attached to both the Knicks and the Nets.

The Knicks were coming off the team’s first season with at least 50 or more wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals since the 1999-2000 campaign, when Jeff Van Gundy patrolled the sidelines, Patrick Ewing wrapped up his final season in New York and Allan Houston was in the prime of his career.

The Nets were coming off their first trip to the playoffs in six years and considered the winners of the offseason after landing future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, along with Jason Terry, in a blockbuster trade with the Celtics.

However, neither team has lived up to the hype with the All-Star break now upon us.

With that in mind, it’s time to break down the season into four sections for both teams: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Future.

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Scotto: New Year’s Resolutions for Knicks and Nets: Rebuild

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Can money buy happiness? If you’re the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, the answer is no.Prokhorov

The Nets have the league’s highest payroll, while the Knicks rank second.

The combined exorbitant payroll has produced a deflating 18-38 record and proven any championship aspirations were merely a pipe dream.

Ironically, speaking of the pipe, J.R. Smith was the first Knick to panic back when the team was only 3-8 at the time. Now, it appears Smith’s anxiety was warranted.

Thanks to injuries, a lack of chemistry and a subsequent lack of identity, the outlook for both teams is bleak for the rest of this season and the following season, too.

Therefore, it’s time for both organizations to make a critical decision – it’s time to begin rebuilding each roster.

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Sprung: Nets face yet another identity crisis without Lopez

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What are the Brooklyn Nets right now, other than a pathetic underachieving ballclub?

brook-lopezBrook Lopez is not coming back this season after breaking his foot, and the Nets dropped to 2-8 without him after Monday’s 103-86 loss to Indiana. Brooklyn is 9-18, a .333 winning percentage.

“It’s certainly a big setback, he’s a great player,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “One of the best centers in the league, so it’s obviously very difficult to replace what he gives on both ends.”

What’s worse than the team’s best player being lost for the season with no viable replacement? The team’s rookie coach thinks his players have grown content with losing games.

“It’s gotten very close to just accepting losing,” Jason Kidd said. “Getting comfortable with losing. And we’ve got to make a stand with that, because when things get tough, do we give in? And most of the time right now we do.”

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Sprung: Celtics aren’t tanking, they’re building

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200px-Brad_Stevens_on_Butler_sidelineIf the Boston Celtics are actually tanking, they are doing a really bad job of it.

The Celtics played three very different kinds of basketball games over the previous five days – I was at two of them – that showed a lot about the way this team is operating.

And giving away wins for ping-pong balls isn’t part of the plan.

On Friday, Boston scored the first 14 points against Denver and led 39-15 after the first quarter. The Celtics nearly gave away all of that lead but regrouped and came away with a 106-98 home win.

Boston learned from that and made its fast start stick two days later in New York. The Celtics had leads of 12-0, 18-1, 25-3 and 35-11 in the first quarter. They were never threatened in a 114-73 rout, the largest margin for any game this season.

It was Boston’s sixth win in eight games, pushing the supposed tank into first place in the abysmal Atlantic Division, which still gets an automatic playoff berth.

Bernucca: Cap Room, Exceptions, Expiring Deals: Who Has What as NBA Trading Season Begins

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220px-Rudy_GayThe NBA holiday shopping season is upon us a little early this year.

It usually starts December 15, the first day players who were signed in the offseason become eligible to be traded. But after seeing Rudy Gay’s immovable contract somehow sent from Toronto to Sacramento, it is clear that shopping season is under way. 

Come next Sunday, NBA general managers will have increased flexibility when looking to improve their rosters, which was Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro’s approach in acquiring Gay, or their payroll, which was Raptors GM Masai Ujiri’s approach in moving him.

In addition to the Raptors-Kings deal, we’ve already heard reports that the Houston Rockets are telling teams reserve center Omer Asik is on the block and they are looking to move him between Sunday and Dec. 19, which is the deadline for any player acquired for Asik to be rerouted before the trade deadline on Feb. 20.

So Rockets GM Daryl Morey may make two deals. Or he may make one deal. Or he may not deal at all.

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