What Knicks, Nets need to find out about in camp

The Knicks and Nets finally reconvened on the hardwood Tuesday, officially transitioning from a bonkers offseason overflowing with enough major trade possibilities and personal drama to consistently steal summertime headlines away from the first-place Mets and Yankees.

Their training camps should be strictly about basketball now, however, with COVID restrictions and trade demands lifted concerning the Nets, and the specter of a blockbuster deal no longer a possibility, for now, with the Knicks.

Following massively disappointing finishes for both local hoops squads last spring, the Nets will look to reboot their championship aspirations with the KD-Kyrie duo finally aligning with imported third All-Star wheel Ben Simmons, while the Knicks have to hope that the addition of free-agent guard Jalen Brunson to their existing core can boost them back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

Here are five pressing questions for each local team as their camps get underway:


Will Brunson be a difference-maker?

New York Knicks Jalen Brunson (11) when the New York Knicks held their content day Monday, September 26, 2022 at Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, NY.
Jalen Brunson
Robert Sabo

With their summer-long pursuit of hometown All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell falling short, the Knicks will need Brunson to provide an immediate upgrade at a starting point-guard position shared for much of last season by two since-traded veterans: banged-up Kemba Walker and miscast Alec Burks. After his father (ex-Knick Rick Brunson) was added to Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff, the 26-year-old Brunson was inked to a four-year deal worth $104 million after helping lead the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals. He especially stepped up in those games star backcourt mate Luka Doncic was sidelined due to a calf injury. The lefty-shooting former Villanova standout also posted career highs with 16.3 points (50.2 percent shooting) and 4.8 assists per game last season. The Knicks certainly would be thrilled with that sort of production and efficiency at a position that largely has been a black hole for them for far too long.

Can RJ Barrett take the next step?

RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Coming off a career-high 20.0 points per game in his third NBA season, Barrett was re-signed to a four-year contract extension worth up to $120 million (with $107 million guaranteed), finally snapping the Charlie Ward curse.

The 22-year-old former Duke star has said all the right things about his name popping up in Mitchell trade talks, saying Monday that he and the team have “everything to prove.” If the Knicks truly are going to “shock the world,” as Barrett put it, he will need to improve his shooting efficiency from long distance (34.2 percent) and advance into All-Star territory in his fourth season since the Knicks spent the No. 3 overall pick on him in the 2019 draft.

Will Julius Randle regain All-Star form?

Julius Randle
Robert Sabo

Randle was exceptional in leading the Knicks back to the playoffs in 2020-21, but that season might’ve been the outlier for him statistically with career-best numbers across the board and a love affair with the New York fans that clearly soured last season. Sure, Brunson’s addition should free up Randle from having to handle the ball so much, but that will be an adjustment that could take some time over the early part of the schedule.

What is the answer to the Q’s about the Q’s?

Knicks guard Quentin Grimes playing against the Pistons on Dec. 29, 2021.
Quentin Grimes
NBAE via Getty Images

Even with Brunson’s arrival, Thibodeau still will need to find backcourt minutes for Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, who both showed late last season they deserve rotation minutes. Thibs’ initial response Tuesday to a question about the shooting guard spot probably didn’t thrill a lot of fans, indicating that veteran Evan Fournier still is the front-runner for the starting nod because the Knicks “need shooting.” Grimes actually connected on 38.1 percent of his 3s as a rookie, and he’s the far superior defensive player to Fournier, who shot only slightly better from deep at 38.7 percent.

What does Derrick Rose have left?

Derrick Rose talks without a shirt during Knicks Media Day on Sept. 26, 2022.
Derrick Rose
Robert Sabo

The former MVP showed off his toned-up physique by going shirtless at his first presser of the season Monday, telling the media that he heeded Thibodeau’s challenge to shed some weight over the summer in preparation for his 15th NBA season. Rose hasn’t played since undergoing ankle surgery in December. Still, he has provided a shifty and savvy presence on a youthful second unit when he’s been healthy during his second stint with the Knicks. But by now, we all know what the key phrase is in that sentence when it comes to the oft-injured veteran.


What will a healthy Ben Simmons add?

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons
Corey Sipkin

The three-time All-Star hasn’t played since the 2021 playoffs with the Sixers due to a messy holdout and mental-health issues before a back injury sidelined him in Brooklyn following the midseason James Harden trade. But the 6-foot-11 Simmons is one of the most unique players in the NBA in that he rarely shoots from distance, but his vision, penetration and ball distribution — and an ability to guard multiple positions at the other end — make him a good fit on a team that features Durant, Irving and a returning Joe Harris providing the outside shooting.

Are KD and Nash back on the same page?

Kevin Durant, right, and Steve Nash
Kevin Durant (r.) and Steve Nash
Corey Sipkin

Both Durant and Nash have insisted they are OK, but this relationship certainly bears watching on the heels of reports that the superstar wanted the coach and GM Sean Marks canned before rescinding his trade request and agreeing to return to honor his four-year $198 million contract extension. The 12-time All-Star has been highly productive when healthy, averaging 28.7 points per game as a Net, but KD has appeared in just 90 regular-season games over three seasons since initially aligning with Irving as free agents while recovering from Achilles surgery injury in 2019.

Can Kyrie mostly keep it about basketball?

Kyrie Irving
Noah K. Murray

Irving was right in referring Monday to the past year around the franchise as “a clusterf–k,” but much of that was on him due to his decision to refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19, contributing greatly to last season’s upheaval. The vax issues are behind him, and the eight-time All-Star remains a wondrous talent on the court, averaging 27.4 points and 5.8 assists in the 29 regular-season games he was permitted to dress for in 2021-22. After opting in for $36.5 million — and admittedly costing himself a max extension this summer — the 30-year-old Irving’s next contract hinges on a productive season ahead of unrestricted free agency.

Is Harris ready to aim and fire again?

Joe Harris will be one of three Nets fighting for a place on the starting five.
Joe Harris

The 3-point marksman is said to be fully healthy after missing the final five months of the regular season and undergoing multiple ankle surgeries. Harris, whose .4390 career shooting percentage from 3-point range ranks fourth all-time, should help the Nets better space the floor to open this season. Of course, the player who ranks just ahead of him on that list at No. 3, Seth Curry (.4395), also is back after appearing in 19 games following his inclusion in the Harden-Simmons blockbuster.

Who are the rotation newcomers?

Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale pauses with the ball during the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Jan. 23, 2022.
Royce O’Neal

The Nets dealt a first-round pick to the Jazz to acquire small forward Royce O’Neale, who made 148 starts and averaged 31.4 minutes per game over the past two seasons. He figures to push Harris for minutes, with veteran forwards T.J. Warren and Markieff Morris and backup point guard Edmond Sumner their other significant offseason additions.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on September 28, 2022.
New York Post
New York Post

…And on the eighth day, he (should be) rested

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays to clinch first place in the AL East after their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 27, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The Yankees clinched a first-round bye on Tuesday, though Aaron Judge went homer-less for the seventh straight game.
Getty Images

With the Yankees officially wrapping up the AL East and a first-round playoff bye, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for Aaron Boone to afford Aaron Judge a reset with a night off Wednesday. Let him resume his pursuit of Roger Maris’ team and league record of 61 home runs when the Yankees return home Friday against the Orioles.

Judge hasn’t gone deep in seven games, but the notion that he is pressing is laughable. He has been extremely disciplined at the plate, reaching base 17 times on five hits and 12 walks — including four walks in Tuesday’s 5-2 win in Toronto — in 31 plate appearances since belting No. 60 last Tuesday against the Pirates.

For those booing and groaning, however, it’s also incorrect to say the Blue Jays have been pitching around No. 99 in the first two games of this series, aside from the intentional pass in the 10th inning Monday night. Each of Judge’s five plate appearances Tuesday night reached a full count with multiple pitches to hit in all of them.

Hurricane watch

The expected touch-down of Hurricane Ian in Florida already has forced relocations and rescheduling of several college football games. It also has forced the Buccaneers to shift their practices this week from Tampa to Miami, and they may move their scheduled home game Sunday night against the Chiefs.

The storm also could threaten the Mets’ pivotal series this weekend in Atlanta — with the NL East title on the line — with heavy rains and winds that could force MLB to consider contingencies such as an off-day doubleheader or neutral-site games.

The Mets and Braves are tied atop the NL East at 97-58 after the Mets lost, 6-4, to the Marlins in the opener of a two-game set at Citi Field on Tuesday while the Braves dispatched the Nationals.

Tomorrow, the World…

Saudi Arabia's goalkeeper Mohammed Faraj Alyami saves the ball next to United States' Christian Pulisic during the international friendly soccer match between Saudi Arabia and United States in Murcia, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
The U.S. men’s national team turned in a pair of dispiriting performances in their last tuneups before heading to Qatar for the World Cup.

The first letter of USMNT has stood for underwhelming in the U.S men’s national team’s final tuneups for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, including Tuesday’s 0-0 neutral-site friendly against Saudi Arabia in Spain. The listless draw came after another disappointing result last week, a 2-0 loss to Japan in Germany.

Key contributor Christian Pulisic returned to the starting 11 after sitting out the Japan match, but another expected offensive weapon, Gio Reyna, was removed Tuesday after playing just 30 minutes for what coach Gregg Berhalter said were precautionary reasons due to muscle tightness.

Still, the U.S. squad totaled only two shots on frame after managing none in the Japan debacle.

Berhalter now has less than eight weeks to sort out his roster and playing rotation in preparation for the 14th-ranked Americans’ World Cup opener — their first appearance on that international stage since 2014 — against Wales (19th in the FIFA world rankings) on Nov. 21.