Nets Bring Big Names, Few Wins to Phoenix
Entering their second season in Brooklyn, the Nets grabbed headlines over the summer when they acquired former All-Stars and Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as Jason Terry. They also signed versatile forward Andrei Kirilenko to a multi-year deal.
Throw in their talented guard-center duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, and many in NBA circles considered the Nets ready to challenge the Miami Heat’s dominance in the Eastern Conference.
Instead they’re challenging Washington for last place.
Brooklyn’s fall from lofty expectations mirrors the drops in production from nearly every individual player. Pierce and Garnett are averaging respective career lows in points. Williams’ points and assists averages are his lowest since his rookie year, and Joe Johnson’s numbers (12. 7 points, 2.4 rebounds) are his worst since the 2002-03 campaign.
Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, however, feels the early season results have little bearing on the overall quality of this year’s Nets team.
“It’s early in the season. These guys are veteran guys. My guess is that they probably took it easy int raining camp and preseason. They’re not trying to wear their guys out. Their ultimate plan is going to be for the end of the season.”
Goran Dragic will play and start despite receiving thirteen stitches above his left eye after Wednesday’s in-game collision at Portland. That matches up him against the 6-foot-7 Johnson, who could try to post up his smaller Suns counterpart on several occasions.
Dragic successfully held his ground against bigger guards in EuroBasket 2013. He has had little issues defending the post against other big guards like Wesley Matthews and Eric Gordon.
Brooklyn, however, is quick to pound perceived mismatches more often than most teams. Dragic’s ability to keep the damage minimal will be key.
The Nets need a win, plain and simple. They have lost three straight and four of their last five. They are second-to-last in the conference.
Again, Hornacek deems all these factors as further reasons to prepare for a hotly contested game.
“We anticipate they’re doing a lot of talking about how they need to get it going,” Hornacek said. “I’d probably guess they’ll treat this like a playoff game and really come at it hard. Our guys have to be ready.”
Tonight marks the first NBA game between Suns center Miles Plumlee and his younger brother Mason, a rookie big man for the Nets. The siblings spent some time catching up on Thursday, letting their pipe-dream of playing in the NBA together sink in.
“It was always our dream to play in the NBA and it’s crazy now that we’re both here,” Miles said. “It’s special to be able to meet up on the road.”Mason has watched his brother go from little-used bench player to summer league standout to stating center in a matter of months, a progression he credits to his brother’s hard work and the needs of the Suns. “I think it started in the summer league,” Mason said. “He kind of defined himself as a shot blocker and a rim runner and diving hard. He’s put in a situation here where that’s exactly what he needed and he’s giving it to them at a high level.” The brothers’ parents will be at tonight’s game, though Mason doesn’t think their allegiance will be in question. “They’ll be cheering for two individuals. They won’t be cheering for either team,” Mason laughed.