Between-the-lines takeaways from the Suns’ 2013-14 schedule

Here’s a few between-the-lines takeaways from the Suns’ schedule that was released on Tuesday:

1) Phoenix has chance to make a good first impression. The talent pool still needs more replenishing, something the front office has worked ceaselessly to do. Still, there are a lot of things to like for a Suns team that needs to get off on the right foot. Nine of their first 13 games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season. Six of their first 12 road games are against non-playoff teams. Most importantly, Phoenix doesn’t play any two contenders back-to-back until December, when they face Golden State (Dec. 15) and San Antonio (Dec. 18) with two days’ rest between games. Huge opportunity there.

2) January will be key. Phoenix kicks off the new year with a two-game home set before leaving for a five-games-in-seven-nights road trip that stops in Chicago, Minnesota, Memphis, Detroit and New York. The schedule-makers followed the cruelty with kindness, however, rewarded Phoenix with a five-game homestand against less intimidating teams that include the Lakers, Mavericks, Nuggets and Wizards. That stretch is followed by another long road trip, this one a four-game slate that caps off the month.

Whether it’s the two road trips or the long homestand, it’s important the Suns don’t let one bad game snowball through the rest of the affected stretch.

3) Early March boasts the biggest challenge. For the most part, Phoenix doesn’t face more than a two-game stretch against elite opponents before seeing a less imposing team. The exception comes in a one-week span in March, when the Suns face the Clippers, Thunder, Warriors and Clippers again. That quartet of games will be a forger’s fire for a young team like Phoenix. By March, however, the Suns’ identity should be well established and, at worst, make that week a good measuring stick for the team as they stand on the year.