Nets out to douse Heat

SINGAPORE - The hype surrounding the Brooklyn Nets in the build-up to the upcoming National Basketball Association (NAB) season is understandable.

The likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko - players with 26 All-Star appearances combined - have been drafted into the team, and mixed with franchise stars like Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Eastern Conference outfit are rated as a club that could trouble the two-time reigning NBA champions the Miami Heat.

Lopez says the Nets' target is clear.

The goal is to get past the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals and lift the NBA championship.

The 2013/14 NBA season starts on Oct 29.

Lopez, who is in town for the NBA 3X Singapore 2013 event presented by Standard Chartered Bank, was asked if it was a straight fight between the Nets and the Heat for the Eastern Conference title.

The centre said: "I can't say who's going to be in the finals, but it's a goal of ours to win the championship, no question."

Powered by LeBron James, the Heat have been near unbeatable over the last two seasons, but Lopez appeared to bristle when The New Paper pressed him on the challenge the Nets face against their East Coast rivals.

"I don't know if we're out to prove we're better than them (Heat)," said the 25-year-old, who made his first All-Star appearance last season.

"But like I said, we're trying to beat every team. It kind of goes hand in hand with the fact that you want to be the 29 other teams to win (the championship). It doesn't matter which team you play."

The 2.13m-tall star averaged 19.4 points in the regular season in 2012/13 and improved to 22.3 points per game in the play-offs. But the Nets fell to the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Bankrolled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, they aim to go much further in the upcoming season.

Strengthened

The arrivals of the Celtics' Pierce and Garnett and former Utah Jazz star Kirilenko have strengthened the team.

There remain question marks over rookie coach, former Nets point guard Jason Kidd, but Lopez countered: "He (Kidd) has been coaching on the floor as point guard for good teams for ages, so it's only a wardrobe change for him to become a coach.

"Maybe there's a little (pressure), but our guys are very excited.

"We're anxious for the season to start, and we really just want to be out there playing together."

Much attention will be on Lopez this season, as he is expected to push on and take his game to the next level.

Considered by some pundits as one of the most underrated centres in the NBA, Lopez bounced back from a broken foot in 2011 to establish himself as a key player for the Nets.

He concedes he can still get better in many areas - including his much-maligned rebounding ability - but says he is looking forward to once again testing himself against the big boys like Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard.

Said Lopez: "I can always improve in every area. I want to improve offensively, I want to improve on defence - team defence, my rebounding - you know, just everything.

"I definitely enjoy playing against guys like Dwight, Marc Gasol (of Memphis Grizzlies), Joakim (Noah, of Chicago Bulls). It's always a good challenge... and they're good benchmarks for me.

"Personally, I just want to do what I can to help the team win.

"If I have to get on the floor, get dirty, get loose balls, block shots, rebounds and be an anchor for the team's defence, that's what I want to do."


Get The New Paper for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES