With the New York Knicks playing the Brooklyn Nets tonight, Stefan Bondy wrote about the perceived Knicks-Nets rivalry over at the New York Post.
In the article, Isaiah Hartenstein questions if one even exists. “Is there a rivalry? I mean, I don’t feel it [. . .] most of the time we go to Barclays it’s mostly Knicks fans so I don’t know if it’s really a rivalry at this point.”
Same. Despite a trio of stars (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden) having blown through the borough, the city still strongly supports the Knicks, who are, on paper, the superior basketball team. New York enters tonight’s game at the Barclays Center with a better record (15-11) than the Nets (13-13), and a better top-two tandem of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. On Monday in Los Angeles, Julius got the better of LeBron James; on Friday, Jalen Brunson scored a fifty-burger to defeat Kevin Durant’s new team in Phoenix. Read Bondy’s full piece here—and watch the Knicks play Brooklyn tonight at 7:30 pm on MSG!
Over at The Athletic, Fred Katz addressed the debate about whether Isaiah Hartenstein should start.
With Mitchell Robinson sidelined due to ankle surgery until at least February, the backup Hartenstein has become even more vital to the Knicks’ rotation. Recent highlights include his career-high 17-rebound game against Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Isaiah Hartenstein has averaged 9.8 rebounds, 9.2 points, and 2.2 blocks in the five games without Mitchell Robinson . . .
. . . but Thibs won’t start him. Instead, the coach sticks with Jericho Sims, who has started every game since Mitch went out. The third-year, third-string Sims has struggled against more physical starting centers, and not coincidentally, the Knicks have gone from a top to a bottom defensive team of late. It’s hard to ignore that the Knicks’ starting five with Sims has resulted in negative point differentials per 100 possessions.
Katz reminds us that Thibodeau’s decision to start Sims yielded positive results during a similar stretch last winter, and perhaps patience is warranted.
Thibs might have no choice but to start Hartenstein. Sims twisted his ankle during the tip-off of Monday’s game, which might limit his availability. If so, Hartenstein must start, over the recently un-frozen and re-signed, Taj Gibson. (And consider other options, as Sam Stein wrote yesterday.) As for small ball with Randle at the center, don’t get your hopes up. Katz reminds us that Thibs prefers to have a big man on the floor at all times.
Whoever plays the five in tonight’s game will have their hands full against Nic Claxton, who has averaged 12.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 17 games for the Nets this season.
Finally, in the NY Daily News, Kristian Winfield covered the latest Donovan Mitchell buzz. Las Vegas oddsmakers believe a trade sending Donovan Mitchell to New York could happen, with the New York Knicks favored at +250 to acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Cleveland Cavaliers. (According to Bookies.com.)
The Brooklyn Nets are in a close second with +275 odds, ahead of the Miami Heat with +425 odds. Spida rumors gained steam again recently when the Cavaliers dropped three consecutive losses due. Donovan Mitchell has averaged 27.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, with shooting splits of 44.8/36.5/84.3. He is in the third season of a five-year, $163 million deal and is expected to enter free agency in the summer of 2025.
If there is a bidding war for his services, the Knicks have an edge in draft capital, with potentially eight first-round picks and additional second-round picks. I’m sure to write something to that effect at least a dozen more times between now and the trade deadline (February 8, 2024).