The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, hoping to build on their narrow escape in Orlando Wednesday night
The Bad Guys: The Brooklyn Nets, a wayward franchise that is somehow still in the playoff picture at 25-34
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY
When: 6:00 PM, Arizona time
The Tube: Fox Sports Arizona
The Suns were last seen squeaking out a victory over the rebuilding Magic on the heels of a coming out party for Brandon Knight, who pumped in 28 points with 7 assists and secured the victory by going full Spider-Man and snagging a Magic inbound pass in crunchtime.
This team will take any victories they can come by in what has been a tumultuous and laughably unlucky 2014/15 season as they are still very much in an adjustment period after reshaping their roster at the trade deadline. Before that, they were still in an adjustment period as they struggled to acclimate both to the absence of Channing Frye and the addition of Isaiah Thomas.
In essence, they traded one adjustment period for another that featured younger players and a few less cooks in the kitchen. The results, predictably, have been mixed. Or if you want to get all technical about it, pretty bad.
While many could (and have) argued that the future isn't necessarily brighter, it is a bit more defined as they forge on with 23-year-old Brandon Knight replacing both soon-to-be-29 Goran Dragic as well as Thomas all at once. Since then, they have behaved exactly as one should expect from a young, talented team.
But as long as there is a mathematical chance to make the playoffs, they'll keep gunning for wins. The front office and the coaching staff don't have the luxury of throwing in the towel quite as quickly as the reactionary fanbase would, and while T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin offer a glimmer of hope by virtue of being unknown quantities, they aren't likely to be handed big minutes until the season is officially no longer in doubt.
So it goes.
What is a Brooklyn Net?
The Brooklyn Nets are one of those uncompromisingly "old-school" franchises with Lionel Hollins on the sidelines and Billy King pulling the strings. For years Billy King has been haphazardly grabbing at any big name player he could get his hands on, regardless of age or fit.
The nutshell version of his high-profile maneuvering since becoming the Nets' GM in 2010 goes as follows:
IN: Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
OUT: Derrick Favors, a 2011 first-rounder (which became Enes Kanter), a 2012 first-rounder (which became Damian Lillard), a 2013 first-rounder (which became Shane Larkin), a 2014 first-rounder (which became James Young), a 2016 first-rounder, a 2018 first-rounder, and Boston reserves the right to switch draft spots with Brooklyn in 2017
In the meantime, the Nets are on their fourth different head coach since the start of the 2010/11 season and the closest things they have to young prospects are Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic (the other Bogdanovic). Both are 25 years old.
The youngest player to suit up for them this season is 23-year-old Brandon Davies.
All this asset forfeiture has netted the team exactly one (1) playoff series victory in the Eastern Conference, and odds are they won't even make it this year. For those that have grown weary of Ryan McDonough's asset hoarding, this is what the opposite end of the spectrum looks like.
On the court, as you might expect, the Nets are a bit of a mess. They were mollywhopped at home 115-91 Wednesday night by the Charlotte Hornets in a game that amazingly had playoff implications. On the flipside, however, they knocked off the Warriors in their previous game. See, the Suns aren't the only team that can do the whole bi-polar thing!
They play slow (25th in pace), they don't score well (22nd in ORtg) and they don't defend well (21st in DRtg). They shoot only 32.8% from deep and manage only 21.8 freethrows a game.
Deron Williams has continued his slow descent into irrelevance with 13.3 PPG on a .507 TS%. Joe Johnson has joined him with 15.5 PPG on a .524 TS%.
Brook Lopez is averaging a career-low 26.9 MPG and has started only 22 of his 49 games played this year.
I really didn't start writing this article with the intent of crapping all over this Brooklyn Nets franchise but ... damn. If you want to know what the opposite of analytics looks like, look no further.
They did manage to snag Thaddeus Young with no strings attached just so Minnesota could have a glorified farewell tour for Kevin Garnett, so there's that.
|Phoenix Suns||Brooklyn Nets|
|G||Eric Bledsoe||Deron Williams|
|G||Brandon Knight||Markel Brown|
|F||P.J. Tucker||Joe Johnson|
|F||Markieff Morris||Alan Anderson|
|C||Alex Len||Mason Plumlee|
The Suns topped the Nets 112-104 back on November 12. Remember when Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green would come in from the bench and basically win the game when the starters were struggling? That was one of those games.
The "Chuck Wagon" combined for 49 points and sealed the win after a lackluster first half that saw the Suns trail by as many as 19 points.
Man, that feels like it was 10 years ago.
Bledsoe versus Williams would be compelling if this was the same D-Will of 2010. We don't have the Brothers Plumlee storyline to fall back anymore. Bogdanovic versus Bogdanovic might be worth watching in the 2016/17 season.
Uh ... let's go Alex Len versus whoever Alex Len is matched up with. Yes, I have an unhealthy obsession with Alex Len.
If the Suns are still serious about doing some work this season, they'll need a win here against a Nets team that has been trudging through the season without any identity to speak of. Of course, this Suns team is still searching for an identity of their own at this point, so I'll cop out completely and call this one a toss-up.
Place your bets.
Now let's do the time warp back to December 7, 2006, when the Steve Nash and Jason Kidd held an epic duel that the Suns eventually won 161-157 after two overtime periods. Nash finished with 42 points and 13 assists while Kidd put up a monster triple-double with 38/14/14.
This might have been the single greatest regular season game of the SSOL era.