PARIS (AP) - For the Miami Heat and the New Jersey Nets, this is more than a showcase for Olympic gold medalists Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter.
Their NBA Europe exhibition on Thursday is a chance for both teams to start recovering from last season. Wade's Heat posted the NBA's worst regular-season record, and Carter's Nets failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
``We are here for business, we are here to get ourselves prepared for the season,'' Carter said Wednesday at the Bercy indoor arena. ``My goal is to help our team to get back into the playoffs like we've done in past years.''
The Nets got off to a slow start and never recovered in posting a 34-48 record. Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson were traded, meaning coach Lawrence Frank has to rely even more on Carter, his All-Star guard.
``Last year was a disappointing year, so we're building it from the ground up,'' Frank said. ``Vince is your best player and he obviously sets the tone. When your best player is a high character guy who works extremely hard and is extremely unselfish and commits himself on both ends of the floor, it sets a tone for everybody else to follow.''
The Heat fared even worse last season in posting a dismal 15-67 record after going 0-7 in the preseason.
Miami has already lost its preseason opener, 95-91 to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, and new coach Erik Spoelstra knows he needs to get his team on track to avoid another bad start before the Heats' season opener at the New York Knicks on Oct. 29.
He also wants establish himself after being hired by Pat Riley, the former coach who is still the team's president of basketball operations.
The Heat play the Nets again on Sunday in London, part of the annual NBA Europe Live tour. Also, the New Orleans Hornets face the Washington Wizards in Berlin on Tuesday, and three days later in Barcelona, Spain.
Thursday's game at the 15,000-seat Bercy arena is a sellout.
``This is a great opportunity for us to see a new country, and to do some other things off the court,'' Spoelstra said after practice Wednesday. ``But we cannot forget that the most important thing is what we do between the four lines. We're here to get something accomplished and really try and improve for October 29th when we open up with the Knicks.''
Like Frank looks to Carter, Spoelstra needs Wade and forward Shawn Marion to lead his team on the court.
ike tomorrow to get better, knowing that it's a process throughout the year of ups and downs,'' Wade said. ``Hopefully more ups than downs. And just expect to have a better year than last year. We have more talent on this team.''
Miami expects great things from 19-year-old rookie forward Michael Beasley, taken second overall in the June draft.
``He's a guy we're going to be relying on a lot. He's coming into a team where all the attention won't be on him,'' Wade said. ``We've got myself and Shawn (Marion) to take that off him. He can feel his way in.''
The main draw for Bercy fans in 2003 and 2006 was San Antonio's French star Tony Parker. But the chance to see Wade and Carter clash is just as enticing.
``We have a nice fan base here,'' Wade said. ``The game has gone global, people have wanted to see our game and have become very good. A lot of European guys are our teammates.''
Although fans won't see Parker, France is represented by Miami guard Yakhouba Diawara, who - like Parker - grew up in the Paris suburbs.
``He kind of reminds me of a Ron Artest - on the court,'' Wade said, smiling. ``He's just a nice guy off the court. Hopefully he'll just get better and better.''
Taking over from Riley - a Hall of Fame coach known for stressing defense in amassing 1,210 wins and seven championship rings - won't be easy for Spoelstra.
``Coach is from the Riley tree, but at the same time he has his own style,'' Wade said. ``Offensively a little more open. The game will be a little bit more open for a lot of guys to get the opportunity to blossom and show their talent.'' Spoelstra wasn't quite on the same page.
``In one way, yes, I agree. We're changing some things offensively, but we still want to be defensive orientated,'' he said. ``That's the first and last thing we should be. Offensively we're trying to play a little bit quicker and take advantage of our youth and athleticism.''
Like Riley, Spoelstra believes nothing beats hard-nosed defense.
``The Boston Celtics played mostly a half-court, pound-it-in-your-face style, and they were the best defensive team in the league,'' Spoelstra said. ``They won (the championship) with their defense and their veteran leadership in scoring.''
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