Last night, the Brooklyn Nets beat the New York Knicks 96 to 89 in overtime, and all of Manhattan wept openly. It was official: In the war over the city's basketball heart, the migrants from America's armpit had won.
The best player for the Nets last night had to be Knicks point guard, Raymond "Smelly Brick" Felton. Hence forth, I will refer to the aforementioned point guard simply as Smelly Brick, as his 3 for 19 shooting epic was the greatest single contribution to a Nets victory last night. Smelly Brick threw up enough air balls last night that we all almost forgot that Andris Biedrins is a professional basketball player who does this not infrequently.
Let me speak for a moment directly to Smelly Brick: Dude, why did you all of a sudden adopt a one handed jump shot? Did you have a sudden bout with arthritis that crippled your shooting form? I suspect you took so many shots last night because you wanted to prove to Nets point guard, Deron Williams, and the entire city that you were New York's number 1 one. In the process, you proved to all your detractors that you can still play as terribly as ever. Smelly Brick, I appreciate the chip on your shoulder -- the feeling that no one respects you after your career lows last season due to your being out of shape -- but don't add fuel to the hater's fire by trying to take over a game when your shot is off. It's not a good look.
Let me take a step back here to make sure we're all on the same page: I have given Smelly Brick the Knick-name (unnecessary pun?) Smelly Brick because he didn't just throw up bricks last night, he threw up stupid, foul-smelling clunkers. Smelly Brick: why did you come off three consecutive Chandler screens and shoot that arthritic-looking, contorted one hander again and again? Did it seem like such a good shot that you just couldn't pass it up? But I digress.
In total, what did I get out of last night's game? I think Melo played like a beast (at times), but also showed some regression from the "team first" mentality he was sporting just a few games ago. He took a few too many shots with multiple defenders draped all over him when he could have kicked it to an open teammate (Melo finished the game with a goose egg in the assists column). That being said, for portions of the night, he was feeling it, so I understand that, as the best player on the team, popping off for 35 points, he's got to let it rip -- especially with Smelly Brick spotting up and ready to shoot.
Also, I thought Jason Kidd's absence last night was palpable. The offense was often stagnant, and there was many a play that ended in a rushed shot -- usually from Melo or J.R. Smith -- due to the shot clock winding down.
After last night, I see what Charles Barkley was getting at when he said that -- even with the Knicks fast start out of the gate -- he believed the Nets would still be a better team at season's end. The Nets have a proven commodity at the point in Deron Williams -- arguably top two or three point guard in the league behind Chris Paul and possibly Rajon Rondo. At the two spot, the Nets have a methodical (read: boring) almost-All-Star in Joe Johnson (even if he makes it to the All Star game again, he's really an almost-All-Star, especially considering his $119 million contract).
The Nets also have a consummate glue-guy in Gerald "I Rock Braids to Cover Up My Receding Hairline" Wallace, probably the best rebounder on the team, especially when you factor in that he's a small forward. The Nets are weakest in the front court, as Brook Lopez and Kris Humphrey's combine for a one-two punch of defensive incompetence. But with an emerging bench - headlined by South Kent School's own Andre Blatche, who is playing like a taller, equally as emotional Lamar Odom -- this team is definitely for real.
But fear not, Knicks faithful, it's not all doom and gloom; the Big Apple's core has not rotted, the skin is just a bit bruised. What we need to do is get healthy, pass the ball better, and remind Smelly Brick what has made him successful this year -- passing it to shooters, not taking all the shots.
(Of course, once Smelly Brick has a good game, I will refer to him by his proper name, and I will write an article praising him as the best almost-All-Star in the league. Like any good New York sports fan, when it comes my team and its players, my emotions are volatile, and prone to dramatic, seemingly instantaneous swings, but it's only because I care -- perhaps too much.)
Folks, I won't sugar coat it -- last night was rough. Still, if Melo had just hit that last second shot, this article would have been drastically different, and everyone would have agreed with me that Melo is a shoe-in for MVP this season. For now, the Nets can lay claim to the best ballers in the city. They've won this battle, but not the war (that will come during the playoffs), so watch out Brooklynites -- when we get Shumpert and Amare back, it's on.