For fans already zeroing in on the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery, the newly released Phoenix Suns’ schedule offers considerable opening and closing potential.
The Suns, who finished with the worst record in the Western Conference last season, will attempt to establish the prevailing version of a new culture while playing 11 of their first 19 games on the road.
But the new coaching staff did receive a smidgen of good news — the first two (Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 30 and Utah Jazz on Nov. 1) will be at home.
Anyway, if — despite adding some exciting new talent this summer — they’re within striking distance of a high draft pick, they’ll be obliged to finish the 2013-2014 season by playing 14 of their 21 games away from U.S. Airways Center.
Their eight games in April include encounters with the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
During this rebuilding process, individual matchups involving the Suns’ younger prospects could be interesting if not entertaining. On Nov. 19, the Suns will be in Sacramento, where rookie shooting guard Archie Goodwin could be matched against Kings’ lottery selection Ben McLemore.
After spending the last two seasons as (mostly) the understudy of Chris Paul, Suns newcomer Eric Bledsoe should have several opportunities to challenge CP3 when Phoenix meets the Clips in L.A. on New Year’s Eve.
Philadelphia 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel may not be ready to suit up by Dec. 28, but if he is, Suns rookie Alex Len (if he’s healthy) will be waiting for him.
For basketball followers interested in witnessing the types of teams the Suns are attempting to become, February is a pretty nice month. LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat will be in town for their only game in Arizona on Feb. 11.
That’s one week after the Chicago Bulls — presumably with Derrick Rose — will make their lone local appearance. The seemingly diminished Boston Celtics, who used to be what the Suns are attempting to emulate, are scheduled to hit town Feb. 19.
For home dates involving teams Suns fans really dislike, Dec. 18 has been reserved for the first visit from the Spurs. Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers making their Phoenix season debut Dec. 23. The Lakers make a second visit to Phoenix on Jan. 15.
In terms of longevity, the most daunting road trip begins Jan. 7, ends six days later and covers five games. The most inviting home stand will be a five-game run that starts Jan. 15 and ends Jan. 24.
A national TV sample of the new-look Suns will be minimal. Phoenix will have four road games televised by NBATV and one home contest scheduled for ESPN (Feb. 28 vs. New Orleans).
The home schedule will feature 23 of 41 games falling between Friday and Sunday — 11 on Friday night and six each on Saturday and Sunday.