NBA viewing guide: Dreaded Knicks-Nets game leads Thursday's schedule

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Through no fault of their own, the good people at TNT didn't foresee the Knicks and Nets playing with combined 8-26 records, but there are two better viewing options on Thursday.

Is it possible a basketball game so bad could turn into something entertaining, or at least funny, when it's accessible in the national spotlight? TNT certainly hopes so. The Knicks and Nets lead off the Thursday schedule that before the season started looked solid on paper. Now, not so much.

After all, they never said it'd be easy following up a Blazers-Thunder game in early December. OK, maybe they did.

The appetizer: Knicks vs. Nets

7 p.m. ET, TNT

The Battle of the Bottom couldn't happen under worse circumstances, but in all seriousness, there's potential here. The city of New York is desperate for some good basketball this year, and the 3-13 Knicks and 5-13 Nets can maybe take in the Barclays Center atmosphere to, for a night, feel good about themselves. It's a rivalry, after all.

Can the few positives keep it up? It's true that there are nice little storylines for both teams despite the struggles. New York rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. is coming off a 21-point outburst against the Pelicans, and Nets rookie center Mason Plumlee is surprisingly getting a lot of playing time as a backup center. Who thought that would've been the case with Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche on the roster? Also, Nets second-year point guard Tyshawn Taylor has shown flashes as a starter with Deron Williams out with an ankle sprain.

Who wants to play some defense? Anyone? The Knicks and Nets are in the bottom three in terms of defensive ratings so far this season. Brooklyn can call age and injury the culprit -- I guess the team could blame Jason Kidd and defensive guru Lawrence Frank as well. New York has, um, this going for it.

Hptltq6

Reading material: Posting and Toasting's Seth Rosenthal wonders what happens if Mike Woodson is fired. Nets Daily previews the search for respectable basketball.

The main course: Clippers vs. Grizzlies

8 p.m. ET

What could wind up being the best game on Thursday's three-game docket is the only one not on national television. Figures.

Does Z-Bo play? The Grizzlies are already without center Marc Gasol because of a knee injury. Zach Randolph has missed the last few games with an ingrown toenail and might return. It could be a boost for Memphis, which got inconsistent games without Randolph in the lineup. In their last two games, the Grizzlies lost, 97-88, to the lowly Nets but then rebounded to beat Phoenix, 110-91. 

His return would bring a bit of stability. Also, if Z-Bo plays, we get more of this.

Zbogrif_medium_medium

Can the Clippers run? It hasn't been long enough for the Grizzlies to find out if they can play at a faster tempo without Gasol. Still last in the NBA in terms of pace, Memphis' bench unit has capable up-tempo players in Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter. Los Angeles will push it throughout, but it'll be interesting if Dave Joerger allows certain units to get caught up in it.

Reading material: The Clippers need a win, but that could be tough against a team that's inside their noggin, writes Steve Perrin of Clips Nation. Grizzly Bear Blues offers a look into Jerryd Bayless' struggles.

The dessert: Heat vs. Bulls

9:30 p.m. ET, TNT

What could've been ... the Bulls host the Heat sans Derrick Rose but are desperate. They have gone 1-4 since Rose tore his meniscus. Meanwhile, Miami is coming off a loss to the Pistons that snapped a 10-game winning streak.

Will the Heat fix their rebounding woes? Miami, the worst rebounding team in the league, faces the third-best boarding squad. Backup big man Chris Andersen is not traveling with the Heat because of personal reasons, and Dwyane Wade was dealing with illness as of shootaround, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Both of those losses could further impact the rebounding issues for Miami.

Does Taj Gibson keep ballin' out? He's pricey for a backup power forward, but Gibson has been earning his $7.6 million annual paycheck and then some of late. He's scored at least 18 points in each of the last three games and is shooting 28-of-42 from the floor in that span.

Reading material: Ricky O'Donnell discusses Derrick Rose's press conference in which he addressed a potential return this season. Matt Pineda of Hot Hot Hoops has more on the Heat's rebounding problems.

More from SB Nation NBA:

The Hook: How to eliminate intentional fouls from the NBA

Deeks: When should NBA teams pay the luxury tax?

Ziller: Where the new Nowitzkis fall on the stretch four spectrum

NBA Power Rankings: Streaking Heat not yet No. 1

How the Heat avoid a championship hangover

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