It’s not just the Boston Celtics and Doc Rivers who are infatuated with the Miami Heat. The Brooklyn Nets admitted it recently when they talked about how their roster has been evolving. They were built specifically with the Heat in mind.
Howard Beck of the New York Times reported that the Nets focused on point guard and center because that’s where the Heat were weak. In addition, Nets general manager Billy King had this to say:
“My thought was looking at Miami, because they were the team. I had to build a team that I thought could compete.”
It’s an excellent game plan for beating one specific team, but there are 28 other teams in the NBA that the Nets will have to beat. The combination of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez stacks up well to most of them.
Any time a team gets into a mindset about individual matchups, problems arise. The most glaring issue is chemistry. A team of All-Stars sounds terrific, but if they can’t learn how to play together and best utilize their strengths, they will fail.
Depth also remains an issue. Gerald Wallace is the team’s leader in energy and hustle, but after he got hurt in the first game, there was a severe dropoff to journeyman Keith Bogans.
Wallace is also the Nets’ defensive stopper who was brought in specifically to deal with the tough wings at the top of the Eastern Conference like LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger.
There was a noticeable lack of energy without Wallace on the floor, as the Nets lost a 22-point lead to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second game of the 2012-13 season.
Joe Johnson spoke after the loss about Wallace’s absence and didn’t want to use it as an excuse, but noted that it highlights Wallace’s value to the team:
“No excuses about Gerald Wallace being here, but those are situations why we feel so strong about Wallace.”
When asked specifically about the Heat and why Wallace was one of their prized signings, King confirmed the strategy was to “at least neutralize the battle.” King then added:
“You’re not going to stop those guys. You just got to try to take things away from them and force them to do things they’re not comfortable doing.”
Although Deron Williams is the best player on the Nets and the one hardest to replace, Wallace could be considered a close second because the Nets are already going to struggle defensively.
Kris Humphries and Lopez aren’t defensive stalwarts in the paint. They aren’t going to mimic Dwight Howard and come off their man to block and alter shots as if they knew it was coming. That’s another main reason why Wallace is so important. He can guard his man in a one-on-one situation, allowing the others to stay home.
The Nets aren’t expected to unseat the Heat this year, but they’ll have a close eye on them. Their first matchup of the 2012-13 season comes on Wednesday, November 7 in Miami. It’s a measuring stick game for the Nets, and even though they were built to beat the Heat, their lack of chemistry and health means it’s not going to happen so soon.
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