(October 31, 2013)
EAST RUTHERFORD—In a recent exclusive interview, I asked Jason Kidd the most important thing he has learned since becoming an NBA head coach.
“Patience,’’ he said, somewhat impatiently. “You have to have a plan and you have to be patient enough to let it work.’’
“When you’re a player, you want everything to happen now. You’ve got to learn to be patient as a player and as a coach.’’
Already that mindset is being tried.
While Kidd attempted to downplay Friday night’s home opener in Barclays Center against the Miami Heat as just the second game of the season, his players were ready to take names.
“It will definitely be a statement game,’’ proclaimed center Brook Lopez. “It’s a great barometer for us.’’
No team can truly have a sense of itself this early in the season.
The Heat looked like the two-time defending world champions in their season-opening win over the Chicago Bulls. Then they got ambushed in Philadelphia, a game in which Dwayne Wade did not play in order to rest his knees.
The Nets can relate. They dropped their opener, 98-94 to Cavaliers in Cleveland. Point guard Deron Williams, who is recovering from an off-season ankle injury, did not play in the fourth quarter.
Williams played 22 minutes, more than twice the amount he played in the final preseason game, his only game time before the start of the season.
“Going into the game we knew he was going to be limited minutes-wise and we’re going to build on that,’’ Kidd said Thursday after practice. “To roll him out the first night and play him 30 minutes, put that type of pressure on him is not fair.’’
Williams, who scored seven points, was mercurial, dishing out nine assists but also committing five turnovers.
He understands the staff is going to be conservative with his playing time but he does want to get some fourth quarter minutes.
Which brings us to the game itself. The Nets were built to win it all this season, which almost surely means going through Miami.
The Heat are a speed team that wants to push the ball. The Nets, big and deep, prefer a slower pace.
“If you allow Miami fastbreak baskets in transition, it will be a long night for all us,’’ said forward Andrei Kirilenko, who will is expected to make his season debut after missing the opener with back spasms.
There is no love lost between LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.
In the first of two preseason games between the Nets and Heat, Pierce planted a clean, hard forearm foul on James to prevent him from going in for an uncontested layup.
In the second game, Pierce and Wade were either trying to teach each other the Australian crawl of they were doing some hand to hand combat.
"There have been battles and certainly dislike," Wade told reporters that cover the Heat.
The Nets won both preseason games, 86-62 and 108-87. Wade didn’t play in the first game and James didn’t play in the second. Do those games mean anything?
“We should forget preseason,’’ said Kirilenko. “It’s nice to have those wins. It’s great for motivation. But to be honest a lot of coaches are checking out different lineups. Tomorrow’s going to be way different.’’
It will. The Nets want to avoid an 0-2 start in a town that is short on patience.
The Heat want to put the loss to the 76ers in the rear view mirror and want to continue their dominance over the Nets.
They have won 13 straight over the Nets, with the Big 3 – James, Wade and Bosh having never lost to the Nets.
With Williams’ minutes limited and Kidd not on the bench as he serves the second game of a two-game suspension for a DUI arrest in the summer of 2012, Nets fans might have to be patient.
"Everybody has to be patient and it's not because you assembled guys that -- 'Voila!' -- it happens," Garnett said after the Cleveland loss. "These are things Jason [Kidd] has been working with us every day. Our system is what it is. There's a lot of different stuff. We're just gathering it. We're not a perfect team by far, but we are a hard-working team."
A hard working team that might just have to be patient.