Brooklyn's new blood spices up rivalry with Heat
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After exchanging words with LeBron James during the preseason, most of the Nets apparently have decided to let their play do the talking.
The Nets' three imports from Boston -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry -- avoided reporters Thursday, preventing any more fuel from being added to the fire of Friday night's home opener against James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
The bad blood between the former Celtics trio and the Heat extends back a few seasons and was reignited two weeks ago when James said Garnett and Pierce should apologize for criticizing Ray Allen last year. Allen left the Celtics for the Heat a year before Garnett and Pierce were traded to the Nets.
"Tell LeBron to worry about Miami," Garnett said after the Nets beat the Heat in a preseason game on Oct. 17. "He has nothing to do with Celtics business."
The signature moment from that game was Pierce drilling James with a hard bump in the open court, an unusually intense play for a preseason game. Pierce called the foul a message to the league, but it's certainly not a coincidence that he chose to make his point on James.
Pierce has enjoyed some success against the Heat, which is more than the Nets can claim. Brooklyn has lost 13 straight games to Miami.
"I think it will definitely be a statement game," Brook Lopez said. "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."
Nets coach Jason Kidd isn't putting nearly as much emphasis on the matchup.
"It's Game 2," Kidd said. "So if you're saying Game 2 is a statement game, then you're missing the process. This is a marathon, a journey, and we have a long ways to go. It just happens that we're playing the Heat to find a way to get a win and to protect home. You've got the world champs in, so we've got our hands full."
Kidd won't be on the bench again as he completes his two-game suspension for pleading guilty to a charge of drunken driving. Assistant Joe Prunty will serve as head coach as he did in Wednesday night's 98-94 season-opening loss to the Cavaliers.
Prunty will benefit from the addition of Andrei Kirilenko to the rotation Friday night. The veteran swingman missed the opener with back spasms but participated in Thursday's practice and has been cleared to play.
"I'm not sure how many minutes I'm going to play, but it's definitely worth a try," Kirilenko said. "I need to be a little bit careful. Getting back sometimes, you're just too excited. I need to take it step by step."