CLEVELAND -- They filed into Quicken Loans Arena shortly before 10 a.m., going over their final preparations before getting things tipped off in this rust belt city Wednesday evening.
The new-look Nets were all business, but there’s no denying there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation as they get set to begin a much-hyped 2013-14 campaign.
“It feels good, our first game of the season, kind of see where we are going to be at,” Paul Pierce said prior to the team's shootaround. “We have a lot of guys healthy that we didn’t really have during the whole preseason and it’s going to be a good test. You’ve got a good, hungry, young Cavaliers team who’s trying to make the playoffs this year, and I think they have the talent to make the playoffs.
“So, I think it will be a good test for us.”
Kevin Garnett was rather succinct.
“The journey starts tonight,” he said. “It’s the beginning of that dream towards the goal that we have all set out for the year, and yeah, we’re here.”
Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) is out and the Nets, of course, will also be without coach Jason Kidd as he serves the first of his two-game suspension for his DUI incident. Kidd is still playing coy when asked who will technically coach the Nets in his absence, but Garnett confirmed what everyone has suspected for weeks: top assistant Lawrence Frank will likely get the nod.
What does that mean for the Nets?
“I don’t think we change anything,” Garnett said. “This is his system. Anything we’ve done will obviously be reported back to him. Lawrence is going to probably hold us down until he gets back and we are going to adjust accordingly.”
Pierce suggested the Nets will be just fine until Kidd’s back to being the full-time captain of the ship.
“We have some strong voices,” Pierce said. “Jason is obviously the head coach, but we’ve got guys like Lawrence Frank and our other assistants have taken the load off of Jason and that’s what they have to do. It’s just like as a player. Say a guy gets suspended or say a guy fouls out, other guys have to be ready to step up and he’s been put in this position at the start of the season.
“So we have faith in our coaching staff. We believe in them and we trust in them that they can get the job done.”
Pierce, whose nursing a toe injury that’s been bothering him the last few days, knows the Nets are facing a quick pop quiz against the Cavs. Kyrie Irving’s ability to create and get in the paint will give the Nets a good gauge of their defensive philosophies, allowing them to see just how well they’ve picked the scheme installed mostly by Frank.
“Oh, they will challenge it in a lot of ways because they have a point guard who can do so many things,” Pierce said. “They’ve got guys who can knock down shots. They have post players who can rebound. Andrew Bynum is another threat [when he returns]. They present a lot of challenges for us. So like I said, it will be a good test for us on opening night, especially against a good young Cavaliers team.”