Basketball

Knicks, Nets set for matchup of teams that 'stink'

GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Start spreading the news. One of New York's bumbling basketball teams is about to win!

The Brooklyn Nets, who have been terrible, host the Knicks, who are even worse, on Thursday night. A national TV audience can witness just how bad things are in the Big Apple. Or, they can just take it from the people involved.

"Both teams stink," said Nets coach Jason Kidd. "We are the laughingstock of the league right now," said Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. That's not exactly what TNT was hoping for when the schedule came out.

What was supposed to be a matchup that highlighted a growing rivalry between neighboring teams with high expectations has turned into the kind of game that will have fans scrambling for their remote controls in search of a holiday special to watch.

The Nets are 5-13, 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference but a full game ahead of the Knicks (3-13), who have lost nine in a row. Only the Milwaukee Bucks had a worse record entering play Wednesday. "You've got two teams that expectations were high coming into the season and we've both have had our struggles," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "But again, if they're looking at it like we're looking at it, nobody's running away with the division and I still think our team can win the division."

Yeah, well when rebuilding Boston is currently leading the Atlantic with just an 8-12 record, that isn't exactly saying much. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Knicks won the Atlantic last season with 54 victories, the Nets weren't far behind at 49, and both thought they could be even better this time.

The Nets were considered the favorites after acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston and assembling a deep roster with the league's highest payroll — a team that would cost more than $180 million once luxury taxes were factored in. The Knicks have the league's second-highest payroll, but both teams have been wrecked by early season injuries.

Pierce is out with a broken bone in his hand and Deron Williams has been sidelined by a sprained left ankle, an injury that forced Brook Lopez to miss seven games. The Knicks lost Tyson Chandler to a broken leg in their fourth game, taking away their most valuable defensive player.

So as much as they want to beat each other, both teams realize one game isn't going to undo more than a month's worth of poor performances. "I think at this point we're trying to figure out who we are and fix this," Garnett said after a 111-87 loss to Denver on Tuesday. "We're at home and getting beat by 30, 40 points. That's not what we want, that's not even close to what we were predicted or where we want to be."

Things were much better for both teams when Kidd was playing last season for the Knicks. New York misses his leadership on the court and in the locker room, and it's been a rocky transition to the Nets' bench, where Kidd has been fined $50,000 for intentionally spilling a drink on the court to delay a game. He already shook up his staff, reassigning top assistant Lawrence Frank to a role where he won't be at practices or games.

Woodson said he feels for Kidd, but he's got his own problems. With the Knicks on their longest skid in eight years, the questions about his job security come more frequently. "I've had the opportunity to come in here and coach a team and turn a team around, and right now we've had our ups and downs, this early season, but am I going to throw in the towel? Absolutely not," Woodson said. "I'm still the coach of this team, we've got a big game tomorrow night, which I think we can win, so we've just got to stay focused and stay the course."

Neither Anthony nor Woodson would disagree with Kidd's assessment of the current state of NBA basketball in New York. It should provide plenty of fodder for Charles Barkley, who likes to needle New Yorkers even in the best of times, and who will call the game with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr.

Anthony wasn't aware the game was on TNT and wasn't concerned much with what will be said Thursday. "We are the laughingstock of the league right now. It's nothing to hide. We are," he said. "So that's why it is a big game for us.

"Do I like being laughed at? Hell no, I don't like that feeling. But about it being TNT, about them guys mocking us, they've got to do their job. We want to win, that's the only thing that I'm focusing on."

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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