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.