Christmas Day saw the Los Angeles Lakers (14-14) move up to .500 for the season and the Brooklyn Nets (14-13) drop down to nearly the same.
Sure, they essentially are in the same place as this day a year ago, when the season began on Christmas because of the lockout. But clearly these are two teams headed in different directions.
Steve Nash, who has played in the last two games after missing 24 with a fractured fibula, looked exactly like the distributor the Lakers hoped he would be with 11 assists against the Knicks on Tuesday. Pau Gasol, in his third game back after missing eight straight with tendinitis in his knees, had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. This is Mike D'Antoni's renewed team, not Mike Brown's.
Meanwhile, the Nets have lost four of their last five games and nine of their last 12 after falling to the Celtics. Last month, when they were on top of the Eastern Conference, Andray Blatche took shots at his old team, the Wizards, who at that point still hadn't won a single game.
Blatche is having a resurgent season in Brooklyn but has fallen off after a solid start, averaging 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in the last five games. That slide has been mirrored by the struggles of Deron Williams and a roster that is solid but has never screamed elite.
It's too bad for Nets coach Avery Johnson, who now finds himself on the hot seat instead of basking in relocation luster.
- Craig Stouffer