Nets know beating Heat will show how much they've improved

Brook Lopez drives against Jameer Nelson of the

Brook Lopez drives against Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic. (Jan. 28, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If the Nets ever realize the dreams of their billion-dollar owner, making good on Mihkail Prokhorov's guarantee of a championship by 2015, they'll find themselves doing precisely what the Heat did Monday: rubbing elbows with President Obama at the White House.

The Nets have a ways to go before they're actually standing on risers situated behind the Commander in Chief, mugging and cheesing for the cameras. They know that.

However, as the Heat (28-13) makes it way into Brooklyn Wednesday night for its only regular-season scheduled stop in the borough, the Nets (27-18) can at least think about what it would be like to follow in Miami's footsteps one day.

Going by Prokhorov's timetable, Obama will still be residing in the Oval Office when they win the title anyway.

"I would love to get the chance to do that, especially here in Brooklyn. To bring a championship here would be great," Joe Johnson said after practice at the PNY Center Tuesday. "But we've still got so much room for improvement before we can get to that to point. We just got to take it one day at a time and in this last stretch, coming down before the playoffs, position ourselves to where we can someday make it to the White House."

For now, the Nets will have to settle for gauging themselves against the reigning champions, a team that's handled them in their first two meetings this season. The stage will be set for LeBron James to put on a show.

Averaging 30.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.6 assists in his last five contests, James and his ever-blossoming game had interim coach P.J. Carlesimo comparing the NBA's reigning MVP to Michael Jordan's evolution.

"It reminds me of Michael as he progressed in his career," the Nets interim coach said. "People forget that Michael was never a bad shooter. He was probably a better shooter than LeBron where they both started at, but the thing that I think got lost in the shuffle sometimes was that people never really appreciated how significantly Michael improved in different stages of his career.

"LeBron is doing that maybe even at an earlier rate. I mean, it's scary what LeBron has done."

Just as frightening? The Nets' penchant for their roller-coaster play against some of the league's upper echelon teams.

Even after their most recent big win, which came last week against the Knicks, the Nets couldn't follow it up with any true quality victories, getting pasted by the Grizzlies and Rockets.

"We have to show that we can be good consistently and that we can be good against the better teams," Carlesimo said.

After the Heat Wednesday night, the Nets will host the Bulls Friday and the Lakers on Tuesday.

"We'll find out about where we're at right now and how we can continue to improve," Carlesimo said."

Notes & quotes: Deron Williams (flu-like symptoms) didn't practice and is listed as probable.

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