Last season, you would’ve scoffed at the idea that the Brooklyn Nets could beat the Heat. I mean, the Nets couldn’t even best a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls team in the playoffs. How would they beat the four-time MVP and the defending champs? They couldn’t and didn’t.
The Heat were just better in every way. On paper, on the court and, perhaps most importantly, in the Nets’ heads. However, two offseason transactions later and this is an entirely different team. Deron Williams elaborated on this in an interview with ESPN.
“I don’t know if we felt we were a better team than the Heat last year,” Williams said during a sitdown with first-year Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd for ESPN’s “SportsCenter” conversation. “And so I think in order for us to be able to beat them this year, we have to feel like we are a better team and we can beat them. And I think we do.”
When the Nets take the floor against the Heat on Friday night, it will be their first ideal opportunity to support that. Mix in the fact that the Nets have lost their last 13 games against Miami, as a franchise, and it’s just that much more important. If nothing else, tonight will be big in the eyes of the Nets — even if it is just game two or three of the regular season.
“I think it will definitely be a statement game,” center Brook Lopez said Thursday. “It’s going to be a great benchmark for us. We absolutely believe we’re capable of competing with them and that’s something we’re going to want to be doing down the line, obviously, in the playoffs. So we’re definitely anticipating a high-energy, important game.”
It’s obvious that the Nets have a new swagger this season, mostly because they brought in reinforcements this past summer. I talked about two transactions that changed everything: trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry; signing Andrei Kirilenko. That was so much of a game-changer in the Eastern Conference as you’re going to see.
The Nets are going to be good, we just don’t know how good. I guess we’ll get our first indication tonight.
“Our mentality has changed,” said Williams, who played just 22 minutes due to a minutes restriction for his ankle in a 98-94 loss at Cleveland on Wednesday. “That is how you got to attack it if you want to win a championship. You got to feel like you are the best team. I am sure they feel like they are the best team, the Bulls feel like they are the best team, Oklahoma City feels like they are the best team.
“That is the way we are going to attack it.”