Nets-Suns Preview

The Brooklyn Nets had title aspirations in mind when they
acquired some big-name veterans in their offseason makeover.

The Phoenix Suns went through one with an eye on the future,
bringing in younger and less-heralded players, but theirs has
worked a whole lot better.

Maybe no team has been a bigger disappointment than the Nets,
who will share the Eastern Conference’s worst record if they fail
to get their first road win Friday night against a surprising Suns
team which is perfect at home.

The blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
and Jason Terry – all over 35 years old – to Brooklyn in July has
been a major bust thus far. Pierce is averaging a career-worst 13.4
points – 5.2 lower than last season – while Garnett and Terry are
combining for 11.9 per game on 34.7 percent shooting.

Plus, star point guard Deron Williams is off to a poor start,
averaging 11.1 points, and the Nets (2-5) are only a half-game
ahead of idle Washington for the East basement.

Brooklyn has lost three straight and looked particularly
uninspired Wednesday to open a three-game road trip, falling 107-86
to a Sacramento team which had lost five in a row. The Nets were
never closer than nine points in the second half.

“I hope this was a wakeup call to start the trip,” said Pierce,
10 for 29 from the field over the past three games.

First-year coach Jason Kidd has seen his team shoot 40.8 percent
on the road while going 0-4.

“It’s unacceptable,” Kidd said. “We don’t score, we hang our
heads and then they score on the other end.”

Kidd’s counterpart is having a much better start to his NBA head
coaching debut. Jeff Hornacek has Phoenix (5-3) within a half-game
of the Pacific Division lead after it finished with the West’s
worst record last season.

Even when they don’t win, the Suns put up a good fight. Their
first two defeats were to title contenders – Oklahoma City and San
Antonio – by a combined 10 points.

Their last game was another close defeat, as they fell 90-89 in
Portland on Wednesday on a basket with 6.5 seconds left. Eric
Bledsoe was off with a layup attempt before P.J. Tucker and
Markieff Morris missed tip-ins to end the game.

“We’re a young team. This is a very good team,” Hornacek said.
“They’ve been playing extremely well and for us to have a couple
missed tips at the buzzer to win it, our guys are battling, and
that’s what we hope for at the start of the season, getting those
chances.”

Bledsoe was the most significant player acquired by Phoenix
during the offseason, and he’s averaging a team-leading 21.1 points
after scoring 23 on Wednesday.

He was rejoined in the starting backcourt by Goran Dragic, who
came off the bench in Sunday’s win over New Orleans after missing
three games with a sprained ankle. Dragic had 14 points but took 13
stitches above his left eye after a fourth-quarter collision,
though he should play Friday.

Reigning West player of the week Markieff Morris will look to
bounce back, having scored eight points Wednesday after averaging
24.7 in the previous three games.

Second-year Suns center Miles Plumlee, coming off his fourth
double-double of the season, could battle brother Mason Plumlee for
the first time in the NBA. Mason is a rookie for Brooklyn who has
appeared in four games.

The Nets have won three straight over the Suns behind Williams’
averages of 23.3 points and 10.3 assists.