The Brooklyn Nets depart Thursday for a five-game, 10-day road trip that will take them to Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Denver and Chicago. It’s their first extended road trip of the year.
“It’s a good opportunity just to have some time off of the court,” said Joe Harris. “We spend a couple of days at each spot that we go to. There’s a lot of team dinners. A lot of the camaraderie is built on these trips. Obviously we’re excited to get out and compete on the West Coast but the stuff off the court is fun as well.”
This will be the first of four road trips of four games or more, with the others slated for late February, mid-March and then a final swing right before the season finale at home on April 15.
“You do the best you can,” said Kyrie Irving. “Obviously there’s nothing like being at home, but that’s really where you come together as a group. You want to come out with a winning record. Take those opportunities to play on other organizations’ floors or going against other good guys in our league. Some great matchups up ahead. You just look forward to that challenge. Just use the time to build team camaraderie, obviously spending some time in those cities. All we have is each other — we have our significant others sometimes on the trips, but for the most part it’s just us.”
Let’s take a quick look at what the Nets can expect to find waiting for them on the journey, with records and stats as of Tuesday, Nov. 5.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERSFriday, Nov. 8
The Blazers are off to a 3-4 start, with plenty of turnover from last season’s Western Conference finalists. Enes Kanter, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless , Jake Layman and Evan Turner are out. Hassan Whiteside is the major addition, filling in at center while the Blazers await the return of center Jusuf Nurkic, injured late in the regular season last year.
With the Blazers though, all is secondary behind the backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They’re carrying a major load early, with Lillard averaging 37.7 minutes per game and McCollumn 36.6. Lillard is scoring at a career-high rate of 31.1 points per game, with 7.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range. McCollum is averaging 20.7 points per game.
The Blazers are eighth in offensive rating (109.1) and 10th in effective field goal percentage (53.3)
PHOENIX SUNSSunday, Nov. 10
Meet the surprise team of the season’s first two weeks. The Suns, who finished 19-63 last season and last won more than 30 games in 2014-15, have won five of their first seven, including wins over the Clippers and Sixers, the latter a 114-109 win on Monday night. That was the first game of a six-game homestand on which the Suns will greet the Nets. They’ve done this without 2018’s No. 1 overall pick, center Deandre Ayton, who was hit with a PED suspension after the first game of the year.
Guard Devin Booker is shooting 55.1 percent from 3-point range, 53.5 percent overall, and averaging 26.1 points per game. The Suns are fourth in effective field goal percentage (54.4) and 10th in offensive rating (108.8), as well as seventh in defensive rating (100.9) under new head coach Monty Williams.
Aside from Booker, the Suns are relying on a string of players acquired over the last 12 months: forward Kelly Oubre, center Aron Baynes, point guard Ricky Rubio, center Frank Kaminsky, and forward Dario Saric. Rubio is averaging 12.7 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game.
UTAH JAZZTuesday, Nov. 12
After last season’s squad won 50 games but lost in the first round in five games against Houston, the Jazz went hunting for veteran reinforcements, adding forward Bojan Bogdanovic, point guard Mike Conley and backup center Ed Davis — a Brooklyn Net last year — while letting go of forward Derrick Favors and point guard Ricky Rubio from their core group.
Electric third-year guard Donovan Mitchell is off to another big start, averaging 25.7 points while shooting 52.0 percent overall and 44.4 percent from 3-point range. Bogdanovic is averaging 20.2 while shooting 49.4 and 45.0. Conley is the third-leading scorer at 12.4 points per game as Utah has started out 4-3. But the Jazz have lost Davis for a few weeks with a fractured tibia.
With that defense anchored by the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert at center, the Jazz are second in defensive rating (97.4) and third in defensive effective field goal percentage (46.9). They play the league’s second-slowest pace (98.29), compared to Brooklyn’s 107.31.
DENVER NUGGETSThursday, Nov. 14
Denver took a huge leap last season to 54 wins and the west’s No. 2 playoff seed behind playmaking center Nikola Jokic, who went for 37 points and 21 rebounds in Denver’s first game against the Nets and then a triple-double with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists — both Brooklyn wins by the way.
The Nuggets have started out 4-2 this season with swingman Jamal Murray averaging 18.5 points and Jokic averaging 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists. They mostly stood pat with the roster in the offseason, with a potentially key addition of rookie Michael Porter Jr., a one-and-done at Missouri who missed last season recovering from a back injury.
CHICAGO BULLSSaturday, Nov. 16
The Bulls are coming off a 22-60 season and started off 2-5. They’re getting scoring from Zach LaVine, and 2017’s No. 7 pick Lauri Markkanen is averaging 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds, while 2018 No. pick Wendell Carter Jr. is averaging 14.6 and 9.4.
But the Bulls have the league’s 23rd-ranked offensive rating (103.1), plagued by poor shooting; 28th overall (41.7) and 26th from 3-point range (31.2).