The Celtics were aiming to win the East and didn’t have the patience to wait on their 10th overall pick that season.
"We just didn’t give him a chance to develop in Boston," Pierce recalled on Thursday after practice at Duke University. "I thought we could have been a great tandem in our younger years. You could imagine if you had me and Joe on the wings for 10 years, who knows what would have happened?"
While they’re not at the height of their powers anymore, Pierce and Johnson are reunited nearly 12 years later. The Nets hope that the two veteran wing players will complement one another.
"We are two guys that are very seasoned and very experienced," Johnson said. "He can only make my job easier and vice versa. I am looking forward to it. I think it will be a lot of fun."
Johnson admits that he too has wondered at times how his career would've gone had he remained in Boston with Pierce and Antoine Walker. But he also realizes the trade to Phoenix helped him blossom into a six-time All-Star.
"I thought about it," Johnson said. "But I am the type of guy that believes in everything happens for a reason. I was able to kind of move on and kind of grow."
It will be interesting to see how the two work together on the floor for the Nets. Both are capable of scoring in different ways and both give coach Jason Kidd experienced finishers who want to take and hit the game-winning shot.
Kidd says that due to numbers, Johnson is the front-runner to be his first option at the end of a game.
"If you’re into analytics, you look at Joe Johnson as the clear-cut guy taking the last-second shot," Kidd said. "He was 9-for-10 with 24 seconds or less. So that would be your guy who is the closer."
Pierce saw this kind of potential in the then-rookie Johnson despite their brief spell together in Boston.
"I just remember a kid who had a huge upside," Pierce recalled. "I said [Johnson] was going to be an All-Star one day, was going to be one of the best players in the league."
"Joe is a phenomenal player," he added. "He does so many great things. He is going to take so much pressure off of me on both ends of the court. He is one of the best clutch players obviously in this league, and I am going to enjoy him being on the opposite side of him, [and me] taking pressure off him as well."
Both Johnson and Pierce can do a lot of their damage in isolation. While it remains to be seen how many isos Kidd will call, Pierce thinks both of them will be able to adjust.
"Joe is a smart player," Pierce said. "He understands the talent that we have out there. He understands the adjustment we have to make. When Kevin [Garnett] and Ray [Allen] came to Boston, I had to make that adjustment.
"The great players understand that they make the adjustment, they figure it out."
And Pierce is looking forward to seeing what he and Johnson can finally do together.
"We are here now," Pierce said. "And we are still going to see what is going to happen."