ESPN’s Bobby Marks sees similarities between a New Jersey Nets team he was employed on in the early 2000s and the 2020-21 version of the Phoenix Suns.
It’s the lack of playoff experience between this year’s Suns team and the 2002 Nets that draws the comparisons, and that’s not negative.
These New Jersey teams, after all, made it to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. A year later, they returned to the San Antonio Spurs.
“I talked about it internally with people at ESPN… ‘Which team do I like going out in the West?’ and that was Phoenix, ”Marks said. Bickley et Marotta d’Arizona Sports Monday. “I’m not afraid if they lose Game 1 or 2 at home, (if) there is a bit of stage fright there and you have to go out on the road and steal a Game 3 or 4 – can -being before COVID, but I don’t think home ground is as important on a postman’s road.
“Maybe when you get to Phoenix, potentially here (it is)?” This Phoenix team reminds me a lot of that New Jersey team in 2002, with Jason Kidd and a lot of those young players. This team grew quite quickly.
Yes, that Nets team had also just added a veteran point guard to Kidd, who was traded to New Jersey in June 2001 in a package that sent point guard Stephon Marbury to Phoenix.
Sounds similar to the Suns’ acquisition of Chris Paul before this year to climb into the No.2 seed towards the playoffs, doesn’t it?
The Nets, in Kidd’s first season there, looked like the Suns in that they leaned on the youngsters around their All-NBA floor general to deepen the playoffs.
Rookies Richard Jefferson (21) and Jason Collins (23) were thrown into the fire this first season, while second-year pro Kenyon Martin (24) also made his first playoff appearance in 2002.
There are parallels between these players and Suns’ Devin Booker (24), Mikal Bridges (24) and Deandre Ayton (22), although they have played more NBA seasons than the Nets trio since 2002.
Marks believes Paul and veteran Jae Crowder will help the kids stay in the lead from game to game.
“You grow up fast in these playoffs,” Marks said, citing the Nets teams he saw firsthand as a junior front office member.
Now the NBA analyst has said the Suns are one of seven legitimate contenders.
Even though Phoenix attracts a likely favored Lakers team in the first round after this week’s play-in tournament, Marks believes the Suns can reach the NBA Finals.
“I’ve been in the belief that if you’re going to face this (Lakers) team, get them now. I really do, ”Marks said. “I don’t think LeBron (James) is healthy. I think he will be better than most of the players. You have (Dennis) Schroder just returned, AD is still healing his injuries here.
“If you’re going to face a team like the Lakers who are probably still the team to beat, do them in the first round and not in the Western Conference Finals when they’ve already had a few playoffs.