Race to Respectability: Does Knicks’ Early Lead Mean Lakers Are in Trouble?

The Los Angeles Lakers (2-11) and New York Knicks (8-6) are in Year 2 of a race back to respectability. Are these two major media dynasties on course to pole position, or are they simply teams that remain lost in an ever-evolving NBA landscape?

Knicks featured columnist Sara Peters and I will represent our respective basketball behemoths as we stake claims for future supremacy in a quasi-monthly, season-long series of back-and-forth email exchanges.

Today we discuss what has steered our teams in the early stages of the 2015-16 season, including successes, failures and the never-ending expectations game.


Why are the Knicks off to a solid start in Rebuild Year No. 2?

In a word: defense.

Last season they had the worst perimeter D in the league. Teams would just set up camp behind the arc and rain down threes. It was disgusting.

Now the Knicks have a top-three perimeter defense, holding opponents to a 29.6 three-point field-goal percentage and 4.6 percent below their normal shooting average.

The key to that defense has been—I can't believe I'm saying this—Carmelo Anthony.

Opposing players are shooting 13.2 percent worse when Carmelo is guarding them. That's some of the best man coverage in the league. All-Star scorer Anthony, long criticized for being a lazy defender, is blocking shots, picking pockets and squashing opponents' scoring averages harder than Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard. — Sara Peters


Conversely, why have the Lakers made zero progress, even as they too incrementally "improved" their roster this offseason?

"Conversely" is an apt word. For as good as the Knicks defense has been, the Lakers’ own fortifications have been abysmal. That said, there has been some level of improvement over the last several games—the Lakers are currently ranked 25th ou...

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