The Miami Heat will wrap up their preseason schedule tonight hosting the Brooklyn Nets, a team that steamrolled the world champs in a nationally-televised game last week. This game is likely an opportunity to work out any kinks before the regular season begins, but for players on both sides hoping to make the final rosters, look for some late-game intensity as these Eastern Conference powerhouses take the court at the American Airlines Arena at 7:30 p.m.
The Heat roster is fairly set and once again favored to win the NBA title. But questions remain for this Brooklyn squad that blew up their roster in the off-season, hired future Hall-of-Fame player Jason Kidd as their new head coach and look to unseat the Heat from their Eastern Conference throne.
Deron Williams, the Nets All-Star point guard who returns to action after nursing an ankle injury all preseason, confirmed the Heat is their primary target earlier this week to ESPN:
“I mean Miami has won it the last two years. They’re the favorites. We’ve got some work to do. I think it’s tough to come together and win a championship in your first year. I’m not saying it can’t be done. We’re looking to do that.”
Among the new faces in Brooklyn are Kidd, the former Nets point guard that guided the team to two Eastern Conference titles, as well former Boston Celtics players Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. There is no love lost between these veterans and the reigning world champs. Words have already been exchanged over the preseason and Pierce, whose reputation as a paper tiger is well-known in NBA circles, delivered a foul and a hard message to Heat superstar LeBron James in last Thursday’s blowout win.
With time ticking for both teams, emotions are sure to run high at some point during tonight’s match-up. Both of these veteran-laden teams see this as a potential playoff preview with a great deal of significance. For the Nets front office, a successful season would justify the roster moves and Kidd’s hiring. For Garnett, Pierce and Terry, it represents a chance to cement their respective legacies by adding a second ring as their careers near an end.
To the Heat, defending their title places them among the greatest teams of all time, the “threepeat” that has been achieved by only three teams in NBA history.
And finally, for NBA fans across the globe, the long-awaited regular seasons feels ready to begin.