Knicks and Nets might not remain so mockable for long, so enjoy it while you can

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The Knicks and Nets as engaged in a thrilling competition: Which team is the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA?

Both can lay claim.

They have oversized payrolls, cartoonish owners, coaches on the hot seat and underwhelming stars. The Knicks have seen Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin feud, and the Nets have matched with Jason Kidd-Lawrence Frank silliness. More internal strife seems inevitable for both teams.

The Knicks and Nets share the United States’ biggest market, but there are more fans outside New York than in it, and the rest of the country is eating up the Big Apple disarray. Though the Knicks and Nets are certainly accommodating with repeated embarrassments, I think we – and I definitely include myself – are a little overeager to mock these teams.

Of everything going wrong for them, the biggest issue is losing.

Even if they beat the Nets in tonight’s hyped matchup, the Knicks (3-13) would still be on pace for the worst records in franchise history. And the Nets (5-13) could shatter records for cost per win.

But a big reason the teams are losing isn’t fun to mock at all: Injuries. Both teams have been hit hard.

Using data from nbawowy, the Knicks rank No. 26 and the Nets No. 28 in net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating). But when the teams have used lineups that include only members their full-strength rotations, they’ve been much better.

For the Knicks, I define that as:

  • Raymond Felton
  • Iman Shumpert
  • Metta World Peace
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Tyson Chandler
  • Pablo Prigioni
  • J.R. Smith
  • Andrea Bargnani
  • Kenyon Martin
  • Amar’e Stoudemire

And the Nets:

  • Deron Williams
  • Joe Johnson
  • Paul Pierce
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Brook Lopez
  • Jason Terry
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • Reggie Evans
  • Andray Blatche
  • Mason Plumlee

Using that adjustment, the Knicks shoot up to No. 20 and the Nets No. 23 in net rating.

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Being in the low 20s still isn’t great, but it sure beats leading only the Bucks and Jazz and sandwiching the Cavaliers.

Of course, other teams have also faced injuries and used non-rotation players who lower the team’s net rating. So, this is far from a perfect measure of how good the Knicks and Nets would be if healthy – and it’s also unreasonable to expect perfect health from two teams so old – but I think this is an indicator the Knicks and Nets, as constructed, aren’t quite as bad as they’ve been so far.

And without the losing, maybe their more colorful problems get handled in-house. It all relates.

If the Knicks and Nets get healthy, they could go from historically bad to just regularly bad, and what fun would that be? Sure, we could – and would – still mock them a little, but this golden era of New York jokes could end soon. So, enjoy tonight’s matchup while you can.

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.

Clippers win likely playoff preview 108-95 over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West. The teams are likely to face in the first round of the postseason.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles’ lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend.

But Los Angeles turned things around in the fourth, scoring the first eight points for an 80-70 lead. Crawford had 17 points in the quarter, scoring six in a row to push the Clippers’ lead to 103-84. He was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line for the game.

The Clippers grabbed control early on, shooting 52 percent in the first quarter while building a 15-point lead.

The Jazz got within seven to start the second before the Clippers restored their 15-point margin and eventually led 49-41 at halftime.

Utah’s top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, struggled. Hayward, who averages 22 points, had 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hill, who averages 17.1, had nine points while shooting 4 of 11.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Gobert was coming off a career-high 35-point, 15-rebound performance against the Knicks on Tuesday. … G Sheldon Mack missed his 11th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … F/C Derrick Favors remains out with a left knee bone contusion.

Clippers: Their six-year playoff run is the longest in franchise history. … They have won 18 of 20 against the Jazz dating to Feb. 1, 2012. … They won the season series 3-1.

 

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Sixers’ Joel Embiid officially has knee surgery, expected to be back on court in summer

Associated Press
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“The… follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid‘s left knee appears to reveal… the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

When Philadelphia’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said that in a statement announcing Joel Embiid was being shut down for the season, the chance of knee surgery to clean up that meniscus was possible. Friday it became a reality, the team announced.

CSNPhilly.com had the details.

The team expects Embiid to resume basketball activities during this summer, according to Sixers director of performance research and development Dr. David T. Martin. Embiid will begin his rehab in Los Angeles with specialists and Sixers medical and training staff members.

“The overall status of Joel’s lateral meniscus and his cartilage is very good,” surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D., who performed the surgery, said in a statement. “Today’s procedure focused on removing a small portion of the meniscus that was responsible for his symptoms.

“The recovery program that has been established targets Joel transitioning back to full weight-bearing in approximately two weeks, at which point a conservative approach to his rehabilitation will be introduced.”

After Embiid missed two seasons with foot issues, there is a tendency to lump everything together and call him injury prone. This, however, was a minor surgery with a relatively short recovery period, even as the Sixers bring him along slowly. There is reason for concern, but this shouldn’t be an issue by next training camp.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.