Heat Turned Up Early on Nets
Brooklyn hopes to rebound from season-opening loss Friday
As far as hotly anticipated debuts go, this one was more Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark than Kinky Boots for the new-look Brooklyn Nets.
The $180 million team flopped in its season opener Wednesday night in Cleveland, suffering a 98-94 loss to the Cavaliers before a crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Serving the first of his season-opening two-game suspension, rookie head coach Jason Kidd had to watch from the team hotel as his still-gelling unit was outshot, outrebounded and outhustled for most of the evening.
The defeat certainly put an early damper on the enthusiasm the Nets had built during an offseason that included the acquisitions of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, sixth-man extraordinaire Jason Terry and Russian power forward Andrei Kirilenko, who missed the contest due to ongoing back spasms.
‘Obviously it hurts,” Pierce admitted after scoring 17 points in his first game as a Net. “But we have to go back and look at the reason why we lost this game. Throughout the course of the season we have to understand it’s always going to be about the little things. To be a championship team, you have to clean those things up.”
Brooklyn will get a close look at a title-winning team Friday night at the Barclays Center, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat visit for the Nets’ home opener.
Kirilenko will likely be back in the lineup and so will a sellout crowd of better than 17,000 as Brooklyn plays its first home game since suffering a painful playoff humiliation at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.
All-Star center Brook Lopez scored a team-high 21 points Wednesday night and Joe Johnson added 13 points and five assists, but the Nets lost the battle along the boards, 48-37, and gave up numerous offensive rebounds in key situations down the stretch en route to the buzz-killing loss.
One bright spot Wednesday was that Deron Williams, hampered by an ankle injury throughout the preseason, started and played nearly 22 minutes.
The team’s floor leader scored seven points and handed out nine assists in 22 minutes before fill-in coach Joe Prunty and the team’s medical staff opted to pull him for good in the third quarter.
“It’s tough to get in a good rhythm when your [minutes are] limited,” said Williams, who only saw 10 minutes of action during the exhibition finale against Miami last weekend.
The Nets can go a long way toward putting the season-opening “Mistake by the Lake” behind them with a win over the Heat, who beat them by an average of more than 20 points per game in three meetings a season ago.
But veterans like Pierce and Garnett know that championships aren’t won on paper, and that title hopes aren’t boosted or destroyed with the result of a single game.
At least not this early in a season that many hope will end with the Nets raising their first-ever NBA championship banner on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“We have to be patient,” Garnett noted after collecting eight points and a team-best 10 rebounds in Cleveland.
Patience certainly wasn’t on billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s agenda when he gave general manager Billy King permission to run the Nets’ luxury tax tab to a reported $80 million in the hopes of challenging the Heat for the Eastern Conference crown.
But Garnett, known as one of the most fiery competitors in the sport, has been steadfast in his belief that these Nets will take a while to come together as a unit worthy of their exorbitant price tag.
“Everybody wants it right here, right now, but that’s not the process,” he insisted. “We’ve all got to be patient with that process.”
Terry, who was the third piece in the draft-day blockbuster deal that brought him to Brooklyn along with Garnett and Pierce, scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting in his Nets debut against the Cavs.
The 35-year-old shooting guard agreed with his former Celtic teammates that the Nets have miles to go before they can begin to set their sights on anything other than their first win of the new season.
“Hopefully the finished product will be us hoisting up the [Larry O’Brien] trophy,” he said. “But we know it’s a long haul.”
A haul that could feel even longer if the Nets have to carry that zero in the win column into next week.
The Nets may be moving their training facility from East Rutherford to Sunset Park in time for the 2015-16 season, according to NetsDaily.
Though the team has yet to confirm or deny the report, the website states that the Nets “will build a $50 million training facility atop an eight floor industrial building overlooking New York Harbor, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The building, part of the 16-building Industry City complex off 39th Street in Brooklyn, will house the training facility and team offices. To accommodate the needs of the team, the Nets will raise the roof by approximately 20 feet.”
Nothing but Net: Backup C Andray Blatche had a nightmarish season debut against the Cavs, going 0-for-5 from the floor with three turnovers in just over 20 minutes of playing time. … F Garnett moved past Indiana legend Reggie Miller into 14th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 25,282 points. … Backup PG Shaun Livingston got into quick foul trouble in the first quarter Wednesday, forcing Williams to play more than expected in the first half, That likely cost Williams a chance to finish the game with his teammates. … Prunty, who made his NBA head-coaching debut Wednesday in place of Kidd, was an assistant with the Cavs for the previous three seasons.
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