By Rob Mahoney
• The writers of The Brooklyn Game have compiled an exhaustive history of the Knicks-Nets rivalry that should make for fantastic reading in anticipation of Monday night's intracity matchup. Don't think of it as amuse-bouche; this is your lean, hardy pregame meal, loaded with all of the nutritious bits you need to fully appreciate the context of these two teams' collision course.
• Tom Haberstroh examines the three viable choices to replace Shane Battier in the starting lineup as the Heat forward misses time with an MCL sprain. Most intriguing among them is Joel Anthony, who would be quite useful in getting the Heat defense back on track:
The good news is this: the Heat's defense becomes 3.7 points per 100 possessions stingier when Anthony has played this season. The bad news? The offense is 14.2 points worse every 100 possessions. Much of that is due to the reserves that he plays with, but Anthony has joined a long list of Heat centers of the Big Three era that went from starter to benchwarmer seemingly overnight. Following in the footsteps of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier, Anthony has been nailed to the bench ever since his demotion in the playoffs and has essentially been reduced to an emergency defensive specialist.
To illustrate Miami's radical shift in philosophy this offseason, consider this: the Heat's most-used lineup by far last season featured Anthony as a starter, and it has played exactly once together so far this season. That only lasted three minutes. If Spoelstra chooses Anthony, he would effectively reset to a pre-championship edition of the Heat. Such a move might not sit well with Spoelstra. But neither does the 23rd ranking on defense.
• Michael Pina does an apt job of summing up the Omer Asik Quandary for Red 94:
Very few centers can corral a pick-and-roll, win a pure strength battle for position against a 290-plus pound man, and, without picking up a foul, convince a guard that finishing at the rim isn’t such a bright idea.
More than a few times this season Asik did all three on the same possession. But when taking stock of Asik’s value, a question must be asked: How do you grade a player who looks so dominant on one side of the ball, and so inept on the other?
Also: You owe it to yourself to click-through on Pina's piece for a glance at Asik's shot chart alone, not to mention the altogether sound examination of Asik's game.
• Among oh so many other things, Seth Rosenthal keys in on the fine line of perimeter defense in his latest round of power rankings:
Phoenix continues to let teams shoot outlandishly well from downtown -- 43 percent through 14 games with no other team in the NBA allowing even 40 percent. There's a point at which you cross over from poor shot defense to, like, giving shooters tips on their form and wishing them the best instead of closing out.
• At Dancing with Noah, Fendo offers some notes and impressions on the young season, including this bit on some of the more disappointing parties in the NBA to date:
Falling Down: Josh Smith, Andrea Bargani, Lamar Odom, Washington Wizards. Every time I’ve watched the aforementioned, I’ve ended up shaking my head in disappointment. Mid-range jumpers are to Smith what heroin was to William S. Burroughs—irresistible, enchanting, holding so much possibility. Bargnani and Odom are exceeding optimal weight limits and it’s preventing them from fulfilling roles their teams need. And the Wizards … oh, the poor, poor Wizards are the league’s only winless team at 0-11. I’m a John Wall fan, but in cleaning house of the Arenas-era characters, the Wiz have built a strange, slow-to-form supporting cast around their franchise player. If these downward trends continue, I’m going to start new series titled Essays in Exploration: Identifying the Early Signs of Decay.
• NBA nicknames don't get much better than this.
•The polar opposite of Utah's oversized lineup featuring Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap may be Doug Collins' latest experiment in Philadelphia: a grouping of Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young that made good work of the Raptors last week. Definitely a unit to watch as the season goes on, but isn't it odd that this kind of super-small lineup doesn't seem nearly as out of place as Utah loading up with bigs? The NBA has been getting smaller and smaller for some time now, but this juxtaposition is particularly stark.
"David is one of my favorite guys that I've had a chance to coach because we're probably the most alike," said Monty Williams, who coached him in New Orleans. "We're kind of grumpy. We just want to do our job and go home; just leave-me-alone personalities. We got along really well just because he knew I was serious about my job and he was serious about his job. He's tough. When you play against him you know you're going to play against a guy whose going to compete for every second he's out there. He stepped up in leadership for this team. He's got such a strong voice. He's one of the guys I really missed."
• I'm not entirely sure of which side of absurdism this Dikembe Mutombo-inspired game falls on, but I admittedly got a kick trying to figure it out. • We live in a world where players apologize to their fans for missing an inconsequential free throw that would have netted the viewing public a two-dollar sandwich.