“A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. that’s how I want you to play.” -Mike Krzyzewski
If you’re looking for a statement that sums up the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets, this is it. It isn’t about one guy. Not even if that guy is Deron Williams, a player signed to a max deal who has been to three All-Star games and won two gold medals. Not even if you’re referring to Kevin Garnett, a 19-year veteran and future Hall of Famer who just might be the best defensive power forward in the history of the NBA. Heck, not even if that player is LeBron James, a guy who is probably the most recognizable face on the planet.
James couldn’t do it on his own in Cleveland. KG couldn’t get there in Minnesota because he wasn’t surrounded with enough talent. Even Michael Jordan, a guy who has basically become a deity to some NBA fans, needed help to get there (all six times). Singular players don’t win championships, teams do. And it’s that very fact that makes the Brooklyn Nets a contender this season; that very principle that was on display for 48 minutes in an incredible home opener against a bear of an opponent in the Miami Heat last night.
The proof is in the pudding. Last night’s box score shows incredible balance from a Brooklyn team that needed legitimate production from 10 players on their $100 million roster in order to pull out a one-point victory. No player on the Nets attempted more than 11 shots (and in fact, 10 of the 11 players who received minutes had at least four attempts). Brooklyn scored 100 points despite not having one scorer in the 20s on the evening. They recorded 21 assists and shot a very steady 48 percent against Miami’s blitzing defense, a unit that might be the cream of the crop in the NBA. So many different faces came through in key spots. There was Jason Terry staying hot, cramming in a couple of second quarter 3-pointers and igniting his very own Brooklyn chant. Their was Joe Johnson doing what he does best down the stretch and hitting a couple of ice water three pointers late in the fourth. You had Shawn Livingston attacking Chris Bosh for a layup and Andrei Kirilenko flying around the floor; impacting the game in every which way with his tireless energy and octopus arms.
If you had to pick a leader from this group of talented peers, it might Paul Pierce, who went toe-to-toe with the best player in the world and even outplayed him down the stretch. With Pierce on the foul line and the game still in doubt, you could see it written all over his face. I’ve been here, done that. There isn’t a game too important or a moment too big for Pierce, a champion in every sense of the word with a warrior’s mentality. Many said Brooklyn lacked heart after that embarrassing Game seven defeat last postseason to Chicago, a team barely able to field a healthy roster. Pierce and his running mate, Kevin Garnett, have provided the Nets with a heart transplant.
It might be just one game, just as the loss to Cleveland was. ”We wanted this one a little more. No disrespect to the defending champs and what they’re trying to do this year,” a quietly belated Kevin Garnett stated at the podium after the win. And he’s right. Miami was bit flat. A little lifeless at times. This being the first home game in Brooklyn for the new Nets, the game took on a greater meaning for them than the visitors, who may be on a championship hangover at the moment. At the end of the day, there are still 80 of these things left. But the Brooklyn Nets put the entire NBA on notice last night by defeating the Miami Heat. The Nets made a statement that they are contenders in 2013-14.