Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The Knicks share the town with the Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 but they haven’t shared the court yet in the two prior meetings – both Knicks
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
The Knicks share the town with the Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 but they haven’t shared the court yet in the two prior meetings – both Knicks losses.
That is, until possibly Monday night at Barclays Center when the Nets are threatening to be all healthy and ready to face the Knicks as a trio. There’s hardly a guarantee, but at least there’s a chance.
Following the Knicks’ 44-point victory in Detroit Saturday, Reggie Bullock and Julius Randle took the Zoom stage together after combining for 49 points.
Randle and Bullock delivered a pointed message aimed across the Brooklyn Bridge when asked the possibility of finally facing the Nets’ Big 3 Monday.
“We got a Big 5,” Bullock said.
“A Big 15,” Randle quickly noted.
“A Big 15,” Bullock continued. “We got a pretty good team. We’re not really concerned about their Big 3. We know what kind of basketball we will be able to play. We focus on our team and the game plan the coach draws up. That’s all we’re focused on – the Knicks.”
Even with the Nets’ personal days and injuries, they still are hot as fire – leading the Eastern Conference at 34-15 entering Sunday’s Bulls game.
This is the season the Nets are all in on a championship, even recently adding former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Knicks? They signed a third-string center Norvel Pelle, who already made an impact on their blue-collar image in his debut. He played on with a dislocated right index finger to make a free throw and block two shots in the final two minutes Saturday.
That is the 2020-21 Knicks – lacking stars but not warrior spirit. At least they have that one edge on the Hollywood Nets of KD, Harden and Kyrie.
“We’re worried about us,” said Randle, named an All-Star for the first time this season. “We have a whole team of guys. We try play the right way, we play hard. We play with energy. We feel we do that, we have a chance to win against anybody. It’s not about them and who they have or don’t have. It’s about us and competing at a high level on a nightly basis.”
The Knicks have withstood assorted injuries to the roster – mainly to starting center Mitchell Robinson — because it does have depth.
The Big 15 indeed.
“It should be the mentality of every team,” Bullock said. “There’s 15 players on the roster. With our team we have our leader, coach. We know how great we can be. That was our goal at the beginning of the year to compete against everyone and have fun while doing it.’’
Another key to the Knicks’ overachieving 25-25 record is their top two players, Randle and RJ Barrett, have been iron horses.
Randle has missed one game. Barrett has played in all 50. Each have soldiered on through recent injuries — Randle with a thigh bruise and Barrett an ankle sprain. That is not the Nets’ culture.
Across the East River, Durant has played just 19 games this season because of a hamstring strain that followed his Achilles-surgery sabbatical last season. Irving has used up a lot of personal days and Harden recently hit the injury list with a hamstring.
If Durant suits up Monday, that would mean in his two seasons with the Nets, he would have played 20 of a possible 127 games (including the bubble playoffs).
By contrast, in his two seasons with the Knicks, Randle has played 112 of a possible 115 games. But who’s counting in this new NBA?
Rookie coach Steve Nash’s culture is about being durable for the playoffs. Maybe Tom Thibodeau’s culture of durability and chemistry developed during the regular season will harden them for the postseason.
Bullock and Randle have been part of a starting five that’s been stable for 42 games — whether the starting center has been Robinson or Nerlens Noel.
“We know how talented they are,” Thibodeau said. “We’re going to have to be ready. Even if one is out, they still have a ton of talent and have added more talent to their team. But we know if we defend and keep our turnovers down, we’re more than capable.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman