Around the NBA: Knicks, Nets struggle to get going

Around the NBA: Knicks, Nets struggle to get going
November 25, 2013, 5:02 am
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Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche, left, talks to teammates Kevin Garnett (2) and Paul Pierce, right, as the trio sit on the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in New York. The Piston won 109-97. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(APWF)

With no NBA games scheduled on Thanksgiving, the next Thursday night national TV doubleheader is Dec. 5.

The winner of the opening game gets New York bragging rights.

The loser could get last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Knicks and Nets are two of the league's biggest messes, and it sometimes seems the only people who still see bright futures for them are the opponents who are beating them.

''They've had injuries,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the Nets before his Trail Blazers' 108-98 victory in Brooklyn on Monday. ''All I know is they're extremely talented, they'll probably have home court in the first round. So there's a lot of season to be played.''

The early part of it couldn't have gone much worse.

The Knicks and Nets began Sunday tied for last place in the Atlantic at 3-9, before the Nets took the basement to themselves by a half-game with a 109-97 loss to Detroit.

Both New York squads have lost five straight and are missing injured All-Star centers (Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez) and starting point guards (Raymond Felton and Deron Williams). Things can turn around once they're healthy, though both teams have shown some potential long-term concerns.

But Indiana coach Frank Vogel, whose team has beaten both, said he doesn't feel the Pacers have left the Knicks behind.

''We started off 3-6 last year, too, and made it to the conference finals,'' Vogel said, ''and I think they're capable of turning their season around.''

Maybe the Nets will, too.

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Here are five other things to watch this week:

THEY'RE BLAZIN': Portland's 10-game winning streak is its best since winning 13 in a row in December 2007. Next up for the Trail Blazers is a visit from the struggling Knicks on Monday.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY: With Miami in Ohio to face Cleveland on Wednesday, LeBron James joins the millions of Americans heading home on the day before Thanksgiving. It's the first time he faces Mike Brown, his former coach in Cleveland, who was rehired this season.

ROAD RETURN?: If Kobe Bryant decided he is ready to play now, he will have to do it on the road. The Lakers start a three-game trip through the East on Tuesday in Washington and aren't back at Staples Center until Sunday night against Portland.

MAIN MAN MISSING: Memphis couldn't have asked for a tougher first assignment without Marc Gasol, out indefinitely with a knee injury. The Grizzlies sure could use the league's reigning defensive player of the year in the middle when they face Houston's Dwight Howard on Monday.

WEST'S BEST: Off to a 12-1 start and winners of 10 in a row, the San Antonio Spurs visit Oklahoma City on Wednesday in a showdown between the last two Western Conference champions.

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STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Lance Stephenson, Indiana, Friday vs. Boston: 10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists. Pacers coach Frank Vogel has said he believes Stephenson should have finished second to teammate Paul George for last season's most improved player award. After his league-high second triple-double for the East's top team, Stephenson isn't only a candidate to win it this season, but maybe to end up in the All-Star game.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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