The Philadelphia 76ers now have two teams to fear from the state of New York in the Atlantic Division. Sixers fans like myself still know that the Boston Celtics are the team to beat, yet we don't want the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets to be the most likely teams to beat them. But with their offseason hopes, both New York clubs looked poised to jump over the Sixers and even get close to the Celtics - until they both suffered losses that held them back.
For the Nets, they got most of what they wanted except the biggest goal of all - getting Dwight Howard into Brooklyn at long last. The Knicks also lost out too, as they got Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton but failed to land Steve Nash - and officially said goodbye to 'Linsanity' on July 17.
Jeremy Lin was officially allowed to join the Houston Rockets, when the Knicks let the midnight deadline to match his offer sheet expire. As such, 'Linsanity' will go down as a mere two month phenomenon in New York, instead of being allowed to spread over the next three-four years. Although the Knicks couldn't afford to keep him anymore, his popularity will be sorely missed - especially if he stays hot on the court for the Rockets.
While the Knicks got a few key new pieces to help Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, not trading for Nash and not keeping Lin will hurt even more. Likewise, while the Nets have Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries back and brought Joe Johnson along as well, losing out on Howard - for now - is canceling much of that out.
For a time, it looked like the Nets and Knicks could well battle for Atlantic Division supremacy, as well as New York bragging rights. But after falling just short of their big offseason goals, despite succeeding in a few smaller ones, both New York and Brooklyn remain in NBA limbo. The Knicks are still waiting for something big to get them out of underachieving mediocrity - which 'Linsanity' could only do for a few weeks - while the Nets' newfound core is untested and shy of elite status without Howard.
Right now, the Knicks, Nets and Sixers still make up a trio of teams jockeying for position behind the Celtics. Perhaps New York and Brooklyn are a bit ahead of Philadelphia in this race, but it isn't by the exceedingly wide margin that it could have been.
The Sixers had to be discouraged when, unlike them, the Nets, Knicks and Celtics actually made huge moves to start the offseason. But with free agency nearing an end this summer, Philadelphia is breathing a sigh of relief that Brooklyn, New York and Boston haven't gotten everything they wanted.
The Celtics couldn't stop Ray Allen from defecting to the Miami Heat, while the Knicks have lost Lin and Nash and the Nets are still playing the waiting game for Howard. The state of New York, in particular, has to be disappointed that the Knicks and Nets have both tripped up. But after all their years of disappointments from these teams, one offseason couldn't reverse all that bad luck after all.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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