The critics were out in force on Thursday night. Some were savaging Carrie Underwood's performance in NBC's production of The Sound of Music, but NBA fans reserved most of their venom for the Brooklyn Nets.
It's hard to say who deserved it more.
While Underwood was fighting her way through Do Re Mi, the Nets were getting blown out on their home court, losing 113-83 to the New York Knicks. The win was just the fourth of the season for Carmelo Anthony and his teammates.
Are the Nets really that bad? Hard to say. They were playing without Deron Williams (ankle), Paul Pierce (hand), Jason Terry (knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back). The absence of Williams, in particular, has made the team stagnant on offense, overly reliant on isolation plays and long, contested jump shots. Getting Williams and the rest back at anything close to full strength will help an awful lot.
The problem is, there's no guarantee the Nets' top seven – Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Kirilenko and Terry – will ever be healthy at the same time. At this point, Williams' ankles have given so much trouble that it seems fair to start using the dreaded "chronic" label. And both Garnett and Pierce have an awful lot of miles on their odometers, and both carried a very heavy workload last season while compensating for the absence of Rajon Rondo. Fantasy players are displaying a healthy skepticism about the team's prospects - Pierce (probably out until early January) is only owned in 64 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Garnett is 71 percent owned - a number that's probably too high for his current level of production. Kirilenko - who could be back in the next week or so - is only 31 percent owned.
Making matters worse – it seems clear that some portion of the Nets' struggles originate on the bench. Jason Kidd's debut as a head coach has been something less than impressive thus far, which came to a head earlier this week when Kidd demoted his assistant – and old head coach – Lawrence Frank.
That said, there may be a smart fantasy play concealed in all the wreckage. I was down on Joe Johnson before this season, on the assumption that more motion-oriented offense and the presence of Pierce would force Johnson into a secondary role. That hasn't happened. Johnson is healthy and is about the only Net other than Brook Lopez that's playing at anything close to expectations. He's only 83 percent owned.
On the plus side, the overwhelming awfulness of the Eastern Conference means a top four seed in the playoffs is still a very real possibility.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are are from Yahoo!
Jamal Crawford (83%) - Getting a nice boost in minutes - and by extension, production - due to JJ Redick's injury. Redick will be out for 6-8 weeks, so Crawford's increased role should carry over well into the New Year.
Taj Gibson (31%) - One of the hottest bigs in the game, Gibson is averaging over 20 points per game in his last four outings - a stretch that includes a 26-point, 14-board, 5-block explosion against the Pelicans on December 5.
Otto Porter (31%) - The third-overall pick in this June's draft should make his season debut within the next few days. Don't be put off by a slow start; Porter missed the entire preseason due to a hip injury, but he could carve out a decent role when healthy.
Michael Beasley (8%) - Miami's reclamation project has been paying dividends of late. He scored 23 points off the bench on December 3 and another 15 points with seven boards against Chicago on Thursday. Unfortunately, those contributions came in games when the Heat were getting blown out. Has Beasley won a regular role in Erik Spoelstra's rotation, or is he just thriving in garbage time? Monitor this situation closely.
Tony Snell (3%) - Right now he appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the Derrick Rose/Jimmy Butler injuries - at least where playing time is concerned. The rookie has been moved into the starting lineup and is playing about 30 mintes per game. His offensive game is somewhat limited at this point, but he seems to be good for two made three-pointers per outing.
Jeff Taylor (3%) - The backup to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will get a six-week run as Charlotte's starting small forward while MKG recovers from a broken hand.