The Nets begin a tough three-game stretch Wednesday night against LeBron James and the NBA champion Miami Heat, who have won the last 12 meetings and remain the league’s standard in Carlesimo’s eyes.

”They’re the best team in the league until somebody beats them,” Carlesimo said Tuesday after practice. ”Maybe when the year’s out and we’ve played 82 games, somebody will have a better record than them. But they’re still the champions and they’re still going to the finals on a pretty regular basis, so until somebody knocks them off, this to me is the barometer you measure against and we haven’t shown yet that we can beat these guys. So that’s a huge challenge for us.”

So are the Chicago Bulls at home on Friday, and the Los Angeles Lakers next Tuesday. Starting Wednesday on ESPN, it’s the kind of high-profile stretch that can earn the Nets, who may be a little overlooked despite a 27-18 record, some added respect within the league.

– Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press