Analysis: Why the Nets must retain Pierce

On the eve of free agency, the Brooklyn Nets and Jason Kidd were embroiled in a messy divorce.

Kidd is now gone to coach the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets are left to pick up the pieces and figure out who their new coach will be.

This latest Nets soap opera is crazy even by the franchise’s zany standards. Brooklyn’s offseason is off to a tumultuous start but sources say the Nets’ free agency plans remain unaltered despite the Kidd debacle.

Despite needing a new coach, the Nets still plan on doing what they can to re-sign Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston. However, this kind of controversy is the last thing Brooklyn needed heading into July 1 when Pierce and Livingston hit the open market.

The Nets would probably be wise to take their time in picking their next coach. But convincing a winner like Pierce to re-sign with the Nets coming off the Kidd divorce and potentially with no head coach in place by the time he decides appears to be a shaky proposition.

That is why these next few weeks, and the next couple of moves the Nets make, are so pivotal for the franchise. Although their split with Kidd is messy, the rest of the Nets’ summer doesn’t have to be.

It’s absolutely imperative that the Nets find a way to convince Pierce to return. The Nets want to remain competitive this season and they are hopeful that Livingston can be re-signed. But numerous sources believe the starting point guard will command a starting salary of more than the max of the $3.3 million the Nets can offer Livingston per season for three years.

So the Nets really cannot allow Pierce to leave. Think about it. Brooklyn surrendered an arsenal of first-round picks (3) in exchange for Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer. The Nets sacrificed developing young talent and their future for winning now with Pierce and Garnett. That’s why GM Billy King has to make sure Pierce doesn’t end up being a one-year rental.

If Garnett returns for his final season, would you want him back as a part-time player without Pierce there as well? An unhappy Garnett is the last thing the Nets need. Pierce may not have a ton left in the tank either but he can be the glue the Nets need to hold things together at a tenuous time.

The Nets will help their chances by hiring the right coach. Sources have said that Lionel Hollins, Mark Jackson and George Karl are on the team’s radar as possible successors for Kidd. The Nets might also see what’s available in the college ranks but luring away a Billy Donovan or Kevin Ollie is often a difficult and pricey prospect that the Nets may not want to deal with.

In an ideal world, the Nets would be able to hire a coach soon and have that coach talk to Pierce and Garnett about his plans and views before Pierce decides where to play. Having those two on board behind a new coach would make everything smoother.

Mark Jackson best fits the mold of a coach who could command the respect of Pierce and Garnett, having played against the two like Kidd did. But like Kidd, the brash Jackson is also strong-willed and a staunch Kidd supporter. He had the loyalty of the Warriors' locker room by all indications but had his own messy split with Warriors management which could be a deterrent for the Nets.

Nets ownership certainly likes making bold splashy moves like hiring Kidd a year ago. So perhaps they look out of the box. If Jackson could get an interview, he has the personality and charisma to dazzle. But the Nets may find a safer choice such as Hollins more appealing.

The Nets need a leader. They need stability. That’s why now that Kidd is gone, they can’t afford losing Pierce and Garnett too. All indications have long pointed toward a Garnett return and that might remain unchanged despite the recent Kidd development. But does KG, who will make $12 million in his final season under contract, still want to return for a 20th season now that the coach who helped convince him to waive his no-trade clause last summer is gone? My guess is he still will but Garnett and Pierce can’t be thrilled with the Kidd blowup no matter who is to blame for the simple fact that the Nets look far from a model of a stable winning organization at the moment.

The franchise and ownership feels wronged by Kidd’s decision to ask for more basketball control. Kidd has yet to explain his reasoning. Last season, the two former Celtics repeatedly voiced their loyalty and support for the then-rookie coach and that played a major role in Russian ownership sticking with Kidd in late December when multiple sources said King and management suggested making a coaching change. Three sources said that when the Nets were in the midst of a 10-21 start that also saw the demotion of lead assistant Lawrence Frank, many were understandably on edge and the relationship between King and Kidd became strained.

Still, the Nets turned their season around with Pierce playing a big role in the turnaround with his move to power forward after Brook Lopez was lost for the season.

League sources say the Nets, in a perfect world, would like to secure Pierce to a short-term contract starting at $6-to-$8 million a season. They own his Bird rights so they can offer him more than anybody else. If Pierce, who shares the same agent (Jeff Schwartz) with Kidd and made $15.3 million this past season, is turned off by the recent developments and wants to find his way to a reunion with Doc Rivers with the Clippers, the Nets should give him enough financial reason to return.

If the Nets don’t have Pierce’s leadership this coming season, this season could start off even worse than last season’s Cyclone roller coaster-like start.

They have to adapt to a new coach, a new staff and a new system again. Deron Williams and Lopez are both coming off surgeries and the franchise will have to take it very slow with them in training camp and at the start of the season.

If the 38-year-old Garnett returns, he and Lopez will be on a minutes and likely games restriction. Livingston likely won’t be back and Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson also could sign elsewhere. ESPN.com sources reported that the Nets recently revisited trade talks from last season with the Cavaliers involving Jarrett Jack as a contingency plan for Livingston. But sources say Cleveland has put that deal for Marcus Thornton on the backburner. So the Nets may have to find another point guard.

Much of the team’s star core will be either making its way back from surgery or be a year older and slower.

That’s why the Nets need Pierce’s leadership even more to help keep things together.

Kidd is gone. The Nets need to make sure Pierce doesn’t leave too.