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NY Post
New York Post
30 Sep 2023


NextImg:After jinxing MLB and NFL teams, it’s up to Knicks, Nets to meet expectations

I’m on a text thread with a bunch of faithful New York sports fans who run the gamut of all the sports, all the teams. Two of them got together this week and made a plea.

Friend 1: Remember back in the spring how you wrote that this could be one of the most epic baseball seasons we’ve ever seen?

Friend 2: Remember a few weeks ago when you wrote that this could be one of the most interesting football seasons we’ve ever seen?

I hit the thumbs-up button for the first one and the heart button for the second, waiting for what I knew would be next.

Friend 1: Could you please stay away from giving us your thoughts on the upcoming basketball season?

Friend 2: And stay away from hockey, too, please.

Well, Friend 2 will be delighted even though, it is true, I am more intrigued by what the Rangers, Devils and Islanders might do for an encore after they all qualified for the playoffs a year ago.

Friend 1, not so lucky.

Because though I’ll refrain from the over-the-top hope I held for baseball season — an optimism which was uniquely unrequited on both sides of the RFK Bridge — and though I won’t be as effusive on the optimism I felt about football season — and it’s still so early to walk away from that entirely — I can’t help it. I’m excited about the start of NBA training camp. I’m looking forward to the Knicks and Nets — both of them — kicking things off this week.

Yes, I’m going down this road again.

Jalen Brunson drives down court as Caleb Martin chases during the second half of the Knicks 96-92 defeat in game 6 to win the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Because I do think we can have a fun hoops season, start to finish, both sides of the East River. That’s not to say there’ll be a parade up the Canyon of Heroes or in Borough Park, but I do think we have an outside shot to see more basketball victories in New York than we’ve ever seen before. And that would be a nice place to start.

Since the Nets moved to Brooklyn, the high-water-mark was that first season they played in Barclays Center, when the teams combined for 103 wins — 54 for the Knicks, 49 for the Nets.

Can they get there?

It would mean both teams maxing out, playing at fairly high levels for the entirety of the season and not suffering any catastrophic injuries. It would also mean an increase of eight wins over last year, when the Knicks won 47 and the Nets 45, just to get to 100, and 11 overall if they’re going to match 2012-13.

James Harden guarding forward Mikal Bridges in the second quarter of the NBA Game 3 playoff game.
James Harden guarding forward Mikal Bridges in the second quarter of the NBA Game 3 playoff game.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

It’s ambitious.

But if you’re not going to be ambitious at the start of October for a basketball season, when will you be?

The Knicks will enter Year 4 of the Tom Thibodeau Era and Year 2 of Jalen Brunson’s reign with pumped-up expectations based on how they finished last year and the addition of a sorely-needed shooting threat in Donte DiVincenzo to the core of Brunson and Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Josh Hart. The season might have ended with a discouraging loss to the Heat in the Eastern semis, but there was the five-game schooling of the Cavaliers a round before, and the 20-8 stretch that bridged the beginning of February and the night they clinched the fifth seed.

The Nets?

Well, the circus officially left town last year, and if they are no longer the national attraction they were during the Durant-Irving years, they are now a team that their fans — and Brooklyn — can get behind as an on-the-come and on-the-make club.

Mikal Bridges begins his first full season as a Net coming off a strong showing at the FIBA World Cup and after a 27-game glimpse with the Nets in which he was terrific: 26.1 points per game and an overall game that ought to make the locals excited to flock to Atlantic Avenue this year. Retaining Cam Johnson was a solid move, and if Jacque Vaughn can show over the course of a full heat what he showed in keeping the Nets together despite all the furious distractions last year, this could be an awfully fun winter in Brooklyn.

Now as long as I didn’t serve as a cooler for both teams …