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.