NEW YORK -- It is an unusual dynamic, to say the least. Friday night, the Miami Heat play the new-look Brooklyn Nets for the first time in the regular season and already there is a sense of fatigue in the budding rivalry.
With the teams having met twice in the preseason, once on each home floor, there already has been ample volume about how loathed former Boston Celtics rivals Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are now loathed Brooklyn Nets rivals.
Heat forward LeBron James questioned Garnett and Paul for questioning Ray Allen's 2012 free-agency defection to the Heat only to make a similar offseason move to a contender.
Pierce greeted James with a shoulder shiver in the teams' first preseason meeting.
Garnett responded by telling James to shut up worry about his own team.
And that was before the games even counted.
Which brings us to Friday, and a game that sets up as more than the official start of a rivalry, with the Heat and Nets both coming off Wednesday road losses.
"We know who they are. It's no surprise," center Chris Bosh said of what the Heat expect to encounter. "We've been playing these guys for 10-plus years. And we know their scouting reports. They don't run anything fancy. We know their set plays."
At times, it's almost as if Heat players have to check themselves, speaking as if they are preparing to play the Celtics instead of the Nets. But as guard Dwyane Wade said during the preseason, with Pierce and Garnett in place, the Heat will be seeing green even against the stark Jay Z-inspired black-and-white Nets backdrop.
"There have been battles and certainly dislike," Wade said as he looked ahead to Friday, expected to return after skipping Wednesday's loss in Philadelphia to rest his balky knees.
The Heat were routed in each of the preseason matchups, the first played in the absence of Wade, the second without James.
"We are very familiar with the players that they have on that team," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And hopefully we'll be able to perform better than we did in the two preseason games."
Actually, the Heat figure to focus their preparations based on their first two regular-season games, which featured uneven starts and finishes against the Chicago Bulls and 76ers, the Heat largely playing only as a solid group of middle relievers.
"With us," Bosh said, "it's all about effort in the beginning and the end. Our finishes and our starts, they haven't been too good. The first nine minutes and the last nine minutes on Friday, they need to be a lot better."
This time the Nets will be shorthanded on the bench, with coach Jason Kidd serving the second game of an NBA-imposed suspension for a DUI incident. But there still is plenty in place, especially with forward Andrei Kirilenko, a prime offseason addition, expected to make his Nets debut after dealing with back issues that kept him out of both exhibitions against the Heat.
"They've got some really smart players, championship players," James said. "If they come together as a team, definitely they could be up there with all of us."
Coming together, however, takes time, especially for a team yet to have the opportunity to work in the regular season under their first-time coach, with assistant Joe Prunty again expected to fill in for Kidd.
"Everybody has to be patient and it's not because you assembled guys that -- 'Voila!' -- it happens," Garnett told reporters after the season-opening loss in Cleveland. "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."
To a degree, that left the Nets with the same blueprint as the Heat after the respective Wednesday losses.
"We're a team of no excuses," Garnett said. "We're going to watch tape and live and learn."
The Heat have begun stocking their NBA Development affiliate, with Heat camp cuts Jarvis Varnado, Justin Hamilton and Larry Drew II among those invited to the Sioux Falls Skyforce's training camp. Also on the Skyforce camp roster are Anthony Mason Jr. and former NBA forward Bill Walker.
Also invited to camp was Jeffrey Remmington, a former Florida Atlantic guard who advanced out of an open tryout staged last month by the Heat.
All of those players are eligible to be claimed by any NBA team at any time, with the Heat not holding exclusive rights. The D-League draft is Friday. Sioux Falls' training camp opens Nov. 1.
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