Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is spending big money in the hope that his team's second season in Brooklyn ends with a championship.
Trouble is, the road to the NBA finals likely will need to go through Miami.
Featuring a $100 million payroll, the new-look Nets open their home schedule Friday night with a glimpse of what they're up against when they host the two-time defending champion Heat.
After pulling off a blockbuster offseason deal that brought in aging veterans Kevin Garnett (37), Paul Pierce (36) and Jason Terry (36) from Boston, the time is most definitely now for Brooklyn (0-1).
But before they can even begin thinking about unseating Miami from its Eastern Conference throne, the Nets will need to snap a 13-game losing streak against the Heat - the last nine coming in the LeBron James era.
The Nets, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats are the only teams in the East who have not beaten Miami since the four-time MVP landed there in the summer of 2010.
Brooklyn's season of high expectations got off to a slow start with a 98-94 loss at Cleveland on Wednesday.
Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Pierce added 17, but down the stretch the Nets sorely missed the playmaking of point guard Deron Williams, who logged only 22 minutes as he continues to recover from an ankle sprain.
"Everyone has to be patient," said Garnett, who had 10 rebounds. "It's not just because you assemble guys and things are going to just voila. We're not a perfect team by far, but we are a hard-working team. We're a team with no excuses."
Williams said he wasn't surprised by his limited minutes, but did think he would play in the fourth quarter.
"It's tough to get into a rhythm when you're limited," he said.
Brooklyn also was without first-year head coach Jason Kidd, who will be absent again Friday as he serves out a two-game suspension for a DUI conviction.
The Heat (1-1) opened their title defense by spoiling Derrick Rose's return with a 107-96 home victory over Chicago on Tuesday before a surprising 114-110 loss at Philadelphia a night later.
Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams had an outstanding debut with 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals in a game no one expected Miami to lose - even with Dwyane Wade sitting out to rest his troublesome knees on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Heat were playing catch-up from the opening tip, falling behind 19-0 and 26-4 before pulling to 51-49 by halftime and scoring a whopping 45 points in the third quarter to take a nine-point lead.
"We're a comfortable team, we always feel like we can win a game," James said.
But then James went 1 for 6 in the fourth, and the Heat missed 10 straight shots at one point in the quarter.
Shane Battier also struggled through an 0-for-7 night from 3-point range.
James finished with 25 points and 13 assists and Chris Bosh scored 22 for Miami, which surely could have used Wade. The All-Star guard should return against the Nets.
"It was not pre-planned, it was something our trainers and coaches came to me with," Wade said. "It's early in the season, it's just a precaution."
The Heat's first trip to Brooklyn ended with a 105-85 rout on Jan. 30, and they won the three meetings last season by an average of 21.0 points. The Nets haven't beaten Miami since a 96-88 win in New Jersey on March 20, 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved