Preview: Brooklyn Nets (2-5) vs. Phoenix Suns (5-3)

Time: 7 p.m. MST






Friday night’s contest at U.S. Airways Center features a pair of organizations that underwent major makeovers in the offseason.

One of those organizations, the Phoenix Suns, opted to tear down their shaky present in the hopes of rebuilding a promising future.

The Brooklyn Nets, on the other hand, opted to fully commit to a ‘win at any cost’ mentality, bringing in three aging NBA champions — Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce — to play alongside All-Stars Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Not to mention, general manager Billy King also went out and hired 10-time All-Star and former Sun Jason Kidd to lead his cavalcade of headliners despite no prior coaching experience.

On paper, the latter squad — one built on proven talent and experience — would appear to have the upper hand when it comes to building chemistry early on in the 2013-14 season, but that has certainly not been the case.

Phoenix has raced out to a surprising 5-3 mark, while Brooklyn finds itself stumbling into the Valley with an unimpressive 2-5 record.

The sample size is small, so it’s hard to glean too much from either squad’s eye-opening start, nonetheless the non-conference battle should be a fun one given all the intriguing story lines in play.

Here’s what to watch for in the battle between Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee, who by the way, haven’t played on opposing teams dating back to their days at Christ High School in Arden, North Carolina.

How will Plumlee fare better against the more talented Lopez brother?

Friday night will definitely serve as mini-family reunion for the Plumlee brothers in Phoenix, and who knows maybe the two will go head-to-head for a few minutes here or a few minutes there. After all, Mason is averaging more than 13 minutes of run during his rookie season.

But the more intriguing individual matchup is between Plumlee and Brook Lopez, arguably the best pure center in the league and the toughest opponent the Suns center has had to go up against to date.

The Nets’ sluggish start has had little to do with Lopez’s production. The former first-round pick comes to Phoenix sporting a pretty nice stat line of 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.

In Phoenix’s 90-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night, Plumlee had no problem staying active on the glass — posting his fourth double-double of the season. However, the former Duke standout also didn’t have a problem letting Robin Lopez, Brook’s less-gifted twin brother, return the favor.

Lopez grabbed 15 boards in the one-point victory and wasn’t even assessed a single personal foul in the process.

Despite the fact he has no games of 10 or more rebounds this season, Brook can be just as if not more of a force on the glass than his brother. On top of that, he’s an absolute load to handle at the offensive end.

If Plumlee can rise to the occasion — i.e. force Lopez to settle for long jump shots instead of touches in and around the bucket — Phoenix has a decent chance to remain perfect at home.

Will ‘The Dragon’ be around for crunch time?

This isn’t a facetious attempt to suggest Goran Dragic isn’t durable, because that’s not really the question in play at the moment.

With that said, when the fourth quarter has come along this season, the Suns guard has rarely been on the court — though no fault of his own.

In eight games, injury (suffered bruise to head following collision with P.J. Tucker vs. Jazz, re-aggravated left ankle sprain at Thunder and sustained cut above left eyebrow following collision with Mo Williams at Trail Blazers) has prevented Dragic from playing meaningful late-game minutes on three separate occasions. Of the other five games, he missed three in order to rest his left ankle.

In fact in all three of the Suns’ losses – which have come by a combined margin of 11 points – Dragic, the team’s leading scorer from a season ago, hasn’t been on the floor to end the game.

The 27-year-old has endured his fair share of bad luck early on in the campaign, so let’s just hope the worst is finally behind him.

Phoenix could surely use another late-game weapon at the offensive end, rather than a future stunt double for the next Rocky sequel Sylvester Stallone puts out.

Which veteran four finally gets ignited?

Kevin Garnett looks his age.

The 37-year-old is only playing 22 minutes per game. He’s only hitting 30 percent of his shots and hasn’t recorded a single double-digit scoring performance in 2013-14.

This time of year, the ‘It’s early’ caveat can still be used, but for how much longer when it comes to the 15-time All-Star? Because one thing that is becoming more and more apparent, Father Time isn’t sparing any expense as the 2004 MVP chases his second NBA title.

Channing Frye is six years younger than Garnett, but he too is struggling to provide much assistance as a starter in the Suns’ lineup. However, his early-season struggles have nothing to do with age and everything to do with the season he was forced to sit out due to an enlarged heart.

Frye has started all eight games this season, and yet has only scored more than eight points on one occasion.

It’s way too soon to pull the plug on Frye as it pertains to his role in the lineup, especially given that he’s still working his way back into game shape and the fact that reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Markieff Morris has become a tremendous asset for Jeff Hornacek off the bench.

But something has to give between these two struggling power forwards, right?

Maybe a trip down memory lane will do the trick for one if not both of them.

  • http://none Go Phx

    Let’s make them look old. Go Suns.

  • Sunsn7

    Something tells me the Nets get on track tonight.

    Lets see how Frye holds up against KG…

  • Mel.

    @Sunsn7 – I think the better question is “Let’s see how Frye’s nuts hold up against KG.” They’re probably still smarting from the last time the Suns managed to gut out a win against one of Garnett’s teams.

    But honestly, based on the “sample size” of how the Nets do against younger teams, I’m actually giving the Suns a clear puncher’s chance in this one. If the Wizards and Cavs can out-pace Brooklyn to wins based on their speed (And, granted, in their respective arenas), there’s no reason why Bledsoe, Dragon and the kids might not be able to pull it off, too.

  • Sunsn7

    Yeah I can see the Suns winning this one but like I said, im figuring these wiley vets from the Nets get it together before too long. Yes I know they’re a mess but they’ve just been disinterested to this point.

    Suns are gonna need Plumlee and the Morris twins to play with a chip on their shoulders and snarls on their faces. Cant wait to see Dragic and Bledsoe healthy…and Len play at all. Anyway should be another exciting game to watch

  • Roger

    We need Ish Smith to relieve EB/Dragon for 20 minutes every game so the duo are not so tired in the 4th qtr. If you look at how Lillard curled around EB for the layup in the Portland game that’s because EB was too tired to stay ahead of Lillard. Also, like in the Portland game, I think one of the Morris brothers was bringing up the ball to the front court and passing it on to EB. Hope this is part of the plan for the season to relieve EB as much as possible so he’s fresh for the final 5-6 minutes of the game.

  • Scott

    IMO, the Suns have a long history of getting struggling teams going by playing them and losing against them.

    I could see that happening again tonight with the Nets.

  • Foreveris2long

    Roger, Lillard turned the corner on Bledsoe because LA set a screen on him which Frye neglected to show on which could have forced Lillard to shoot a jump shot or pass. That play was the result of Frye’s malfeasance or nonfeasance, not Bledsoe being exhausted.I can still see that dumb look on Frye’s face after it happened.

  • hawki

    Suns are still the only “undefeated” team in Vegas…
    7-0-1 ATS with the”push” coming in the 3 pt win over Utah.
    Still though, I was kinda shocked when I saw that the Nets were 1 pt favorites

    It’s still early but this already seems like a must-win game for the Nets….especially after being humiliated in Sac-Town.
    I expect them to put out a full effort.

    If the Suns pull this one out….with the east coast press watching….that would really be impressive.

  • hawki

    Horny charged with malfeasance
    Frye charged with nonfeasance

  • Ty-Sun

    If the Suns can control the tempo and run, Brooklyn will have a difficult time. If they wind up playing a slow, half-court pace then the Suns will have a very difficult night. But I’m expecting a good game however it turns out.

  • Foreveris2long

    Thanks Hawki for clearing the criminal charges up. On another note regarding former lottery pick Marshall, some justified the pick because Nash was leaving and the Suns needed a point guard. At the time I saw high school point guards better than Marshall but I could not prove it.

    One point guard who was available was Tony Wroten from University of Washington. In his first career start two nights ago he got a triple double for the 76ers. In his last 4 games backing up Michael Carter Williams, he scored in double figures in 3 of those games. I think he was selected around #25 by Memphis. While I wanted Henson, there was someone on the old Coro msg board who wanted the Suns to trade the pick, get two late 1st round picks and use one for Wroten. Whoever you are please stand and take a bow.

  • Sunsn7

    Suns taking it to em’ early

    Wonder if anyone still wished we were building around Nashty…

  • Sunsn7

    Gotta love Archie Goodwin. The kid is my current favorite Sun.

    Have high hopes for him and what he’s gonna ultimately bring to this franchise…Dragic looks like he’s feeling healthy tonight…

    Nets will wake up

  • EBJM

    Robin Lopez has become a beast on the boards, 10 tonight against the Celtics. If my memory serves me that makes a career high 4th straight game of double digit rebounds.

    Someone on the old Coro Msg board kept saying Robin had talent and just needed some time to develop. Whoever you are please stand and take a bow.

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  • Sunsn7

    Aw EBJM, you shouldn’t have!