Leave it to the most unassuming Net to come up with the most provocative statement on the eve of the team’s long-awaited home opener against the Miami Heat on Friday. With his teammates and coaches urging caution, Brook Lopez barreled into the conversation with the authority of a rim-rattling dunk.

No, Lopez wasn’t discussing Deron Williams’ minutes limit, which forced him to be a spectator for the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s season-opening loss to Cleveland.

Instead Lopez views Friday’s game as a barometer of sorts to determine just how far the win-now Nets have come since last season’s disappointing finish. In the offseason, the Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, who is expected to play on Friday after missing the opener with back spasms, with the hopes of challenging the Heat for a championship.
“I think it will definitely be a statement game,” Lopez said following practice at the team’s East Rutherford facility on Thursday. “It’s going to be a great benchmark for us. We absolutely believe we’re capable of competing with them and that’s something we’re going to want to be doing down the line, obviously, in the playoffs. So we’re definitely anticipating a high-energy, important game.”

Coach Jason Kidd, not aware of what Lopez said, immediately contradicted that view, stressing the need to rein in emotions for the game.

“It’s Game 2,” said Kidd, who will serve the second game of his two-game ban on Friday after pleading guilty in July to drunk driving. Longtime NBA assistant Joe Prunty will again be in charge of the Nets on Friday. “So if you’re saying Game 2 is a statement game then you’re missing the process,” Kidd went on. “We have a long ways to go.”

Williams admitted it was frustrating to watch his teammates in the fourth quarter because of a minutes restriction, and he said he plans to talk to the coaches about disseminating his minutes better so he won’t miss crunch time again. Nets GM Billy King later said on Thursday in a radio interview on WFAN that Williams’ minutes limit will be lifted by Sunday’s game against Orlando and he should play more on Friday.

Along with lobbying for minutes, Williams also tried to downplay the Nets’ recent history against the Heat, which isn’t good: they have lost 13 straight to Miami. “It’s a new team (for Brooklyn) and to say that we haven’t had a lot of success, you know, that’s kind of out the window now,” he said.