Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News says the Eastern Conference has returned to its most competitive since the 1990s (Twitter link). But whereas the Heat have LeBron James, the Bulls get back Derrick Rose and the Pacers have improved, neither New York Team – the Knicks, or the Nets – had the "backbone" for the playoffs last year.
The only difference between the two New York teams is the Nets had “surgery” this summer (Twitter link), adding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce without giving up any of their core players – save an unproductive Gerald Wallace - in an offseason splurge that also saw them sign Andrei Kirilenko.
The Nets are coming off a tough season that ended with a game 7 loss at home to the Bulls in the first round. Bondy mentions, via Twitter, that some players were partying at the 40/40 club the same night of the loss. Garnett's presence changes the culture that would allow that sort of behavior following an elimination defeat.
Pierce and Garnett's former coach, Doc Rivers, agreed about KG changing the culture in Brooklyn when he spoke to the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn. But there are some players who might not gel with Garnett's brand of basketball intensity.
- Bondy mentions that Brook Lopez took the game 7 loss the hardest out of anyone else on the team (Twitter), which could mean a good partnership with Garnett returning to his more comfortable position at power forward and with Brook on the block.
- If Lopez's foot can stay healthy, he might have a real future, but Bondy is concerned about where Joe Johnson fits in with this new team led by the experienced former Celtics (Twitter).
- Lopez's toughness shouldn't be an issue now, and Bondy tweets that the seven-footer turned a corner last season; the only real question that remains is whether the foot is fully healed.
- The game 7 loss by the Nets was so brutal because it was at home and there were such high hopes for the Nets during their inaugural season at the Barclay's Center. Bondy singled out Johnson for the 40/40 Club visit over Twitter, saying that it was not the best night to go party. It's Johnson's demeanor that could clash with the win-at-all-costs mantra of Garnett.