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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, November 3rd (All times eastern)

Atlanta Hawks (0-0) at Phoenix Suns (0-0), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - With a new backcourt in Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson leading the way, the Phoenix Suns will open up their 2004-05 campaign against the Atlanta Hawks at America West Arena tonight.

Nash and Richardson were the key offseason additions for the Suns, which could help them return to the postseason after winning just 29 games last season. Following an 8-13 start, the Suns replaced head coach Frank Johnson on December 10, 2003 with current general Mike D'Antoni, who was 21-40 as the leader of the Suns.

Phoenix continued to make major changes last season, as the Suns dealt Stephon Marbury and Anfernee Hardaway in January to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster deal that would free up money and give the club plenty of room under the salary cap.

The Suns took full advantage of their new found cap room and were able to sign Nash and Richardson to lucrative, multi-year deals. The 30-year-old Nash had spent the previous six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, while the 24-year- old Richardson, who was a restricted free agent, was able to sign with the Suns when the Los Angeles Clippers decided not to match Phoenix' offer.

With forwards Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion already on its roster, Phoenix has a potent, athletic lineup that is capable of doing some serious damage in the Western Conference.

Mike Woodson will make his NBA head coaching debut tonight for the Atlanta Hawks. The 46-year-old Woodson became the Hawks' 10th head coach since the franchise moved to the Atlanta area in 1968. He spent the previous three seasons with the Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers under the leadership of Larry Brown. Woodson has also been an assistant coach with Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Besides hiring a new head coach, Hawks general manager Billy Knight was busy changing Atlanta's roster. After drafting Stanford's Josh Childress and Oak Hill Academy's Josh Smith in the first round of the 2004 draft, Knight made two major trades.

On July 15th, Knight acquired power forward Al Harrington from the Indiana Pacers for swingman Stephen Jackson in a sign-and-trade deal, and just 15 days later he dealt Jason Terry, Alan Henderson and a 2007 first-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for three-time All-Star Antoine Walker and Tony Delk.

Atlanta has changed its roster completely, as its starting lineup will most likely have five new faces in it on opening night.

Last season, these teams split a pair of meetings. Phoenix owns a 54-44 advantage all-time in this series, including wins in eight of 10 and 11 of the last 14 meetings.

11/03 10:10:46 ET


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