The Knicks Hope Brooklyn is a Mirror Image of Their Future
In New York over the past few years, we've all become accustomed to a certain narrative:
The Nets do things the right way, while the Knicks...well, the Knicks go out of their way to do the opposite.
So it was perhaps a bit surprising to hear Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson open his pregame press conference by reflecting back on his team's two victories over the Knicks this season by saying the difference between the two squads wasn't very complicated:
"We've been lucky" he said, noting how each game came down to one team having a few more makes than the other. "They played us tough. I expect them to play us tough again tonight."
Of course this is coach-speak at its finest. The Nets - as Knicks head coach Mike Miller noted in his pregame presser - play pace and space to perfection, and there's no drop off in their attack from Kyrie Irving to Spencer Dinwiddie, who Miller couldn't stop singing the praises of, saying how the former back-up turned possible All-Star "is at the top of different categories that impact the game" and that the biggest thing was how "he's made their group better."
But the Nets current starting point guard is perhaps the best example of how, over the last few seasons at least, luck might actually have very little to do with the direction each of these franchises has gone.
When Dinwiddie came to Brooklyn, he had been in and out of the G-League with Detroit before being traded to Chicago, who waived him before he ever appeared in a game. Even in his first year with the Nets, he averaged a paltry seven points and three assists a night for the worst team in the NBA.
That 2016-17 season was Kenny Atkinson's first. Was it luck that the organization stuck with Dinwiddie despite those humble beginnings? Or was this planning at its best from the very start? It's probably a little of both, but at least Brooklyn gave themselves a chance to be right with their modest bet.
Perhaps the Knick in the most similar situation to Dinwiddie, and arguably the one who has followed the most similar career path thus far, is Damyean Dotson, himself a second round pick that was an afterthought for much of his early going.
Miller was asked about Dotson before the game and raved about his progress from when he coached him in Westchester early in his career to now. He specifically noted how his finishing is much better, and how defensively he's vastly improved.
Dotson - tied with Frank Ntilikina as the longest-tenured Knick - is a good test case for New York. Do they have the patience to see it through with a young player who has been inconsistent but has flashed significant potential? Or will he be out the door before the end of this season, only to latch on elsewhere (like the guy he'll no doubt be guarding at times tonight) and they'll have to watch his growth from afar?
Time will tell. For right now though, the Knicks just need to come out with an effort 180 degrees in the opposite direction from Monday at home against Washington. It'll be a step in the right direction against a team that had their own humble beginnings, but stuck with it, and are now seeing results.
Hopefully the Knicks are paying attention.