Brooklyn Nets: paul pierce

Burning Q's: Who has the most pressure?

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
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With training camp a few weeks away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: Who has the most pressure on him?

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesComing off ankle surgeries, Deron Williams will be looking to regain his all-star form.
All eyes will be on Deron Williams once again. Yes, D-Will is coming off surgeries on his ankles and health is a concern again. And he has another new head coach and a new offensive system to get acclimated to.

Without a doubt, Williams has a lot to deal with besides just regaining his old All-Star form. But if the Nets are going to make any noise this season, Williams has to be the one to lead them on the court.

With Paul Pierce gone, the Nets become Williams’ team again. Last season, Pierce and Kevin Garnett constantly tried to build Williams’ confidence up and let him know that it was his team. But Williams’ achy ankles and wavering confidence never allowed him to be the point guard he used to be.

Also, Williams understandably deferred to Pierce at times last season as the Nets tried to meet enormous expectations following the Pierce and Garnett trade. In the playoffs, Williams was up and down with his low coming on an 0-for-9, zero-point outing in Game 2 against Miami.

Now with Pierce gone, Williams is the man who has to take over the reins.

Pierce
Johnson
Sure, Joe Johnson will be counted on as usual for his steady scoring and clutch shooting at the end of games. But Johnson is not the vocal type. KG is still around to provide the vocal leadership but his playing time might be reduced from last season.

Like Williams, Brook Lopez is returning from surgery and the Nets will incorporate their big man back into the mix.

But it’s Williams who has to make the Nets his team again. A confident and dominant Williams is what can take the Nets from a team contending for a playoff spot to a team that could get past the first round. When Williams kicks it into another gear, the Nets do the same.

Jason Kidd tried to let Williams concentrate on scoring by putting the ball in Shaun Livingston’s hands more and playing the two point guards together. With Kidd and Livingston both gone, new coach Lionel Hollins is ready to hand the ball to Williams.

Like Kidd last offseason, Hollins is reiterating that this is Williams’ team.

“He’s a point guard," Hollins told the New York Post of Williams. “He’s our point guard. Will we play Jarrett Jack and Deron together? I’m sure we will. But that doesn’t mean Deron has to be off the ball. When you have two guys who can handle the ball, it doesn’t matter who handles it, but he’s going to be the primary ballhandler."

First, Deron has to regain confidence in his ankles. That might take some time. So the Nets will have to be patient.

But this is Williams’ team. The Nets will go as far as a healthy Williams can take them.

Question: Which Net has the most pressure on him?

Burning Q's: Can D-Will regain star form?

August, 29, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: Will Deron Williams return to All-Star form?

Much of it depends on if Williams can make a full recovery physically and mentally after undergoing surgery on both of his ankles in May.

The physical part appears to be on track as Williams is said to be making progress. But it is in his and the Nets’ best interest for the point guard to take a cautious approach in camp.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan Deron Williams return to elite status in the NBA?
Since the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists, Williams’ game has been on the decline physically and mentally. Injuries took its toll on the point guard, who needs to hit the reset button and jump-start his game again.

Williams averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 assists in 2012-13 but saw those numbers dip to 14.3 points and 6.1 assists last season. He played in 64 games, missing time due to his sore ankles.

And he might’ve rushed back too soon after missing five games in the middle of January. Williams just rarely looked comfortable last season, playing well in spurts. He averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists in the first round against Toronto but saw those numbers dip in the second round against Miami to 11.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. During a Game 2 loss to the Heat, Williams went 0-for-9 from the field in 37 minutes and finished with no points, seven rebounds and six assists.

While Williams might not have been healthy, his confidence was also clearly far from being in peak form as well. Sports Illustrated recently did an in-depth interview with Kobe Bryant and also released a series of excerpts from the time with Bryant. During one excerpt on Bryant’s views on confidence, Williams’ 0-for-9 night came up.

SI wrote: Gotham Chopra, the director of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” an upcoming documentary on Bryant, told a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play. Recounts Chopra, “Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself."

And there is likely the answer to whether Williams can regain his All-Star form. First, he must recover physically. And then, perhaps even more important, Williams has to gain confidence again in his ankles and then build his confidence back up in his game.

Last season, he had to get used to having Jason Kidd as his coach, and he often deferred to Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Add on the fact that he wasn't feeling at his best physically, and you have a down year. He has to get back to feeling like he is "The Man" on the team again. That’s going to take time.

I believe he can average 18-to-20 points and double-figure assists again. Reaching those averages this season will be difficult, given his offseason surgery and having to learn a new coach and system again. The Nets also still have Johnson, and Brook Lopez is also making his own return from surgery. With no Shaun Livingston, Williams should have the ball in his hands more. And with Pierce in Washington, Williams has to take this team and make it his team.

Williams, 30, has three years remaining on his contract. He has plenty of time to regain his All-Star form, and I think he can. I just wonder if it will happen in Brooklyn or if he might need a fresh start somewhere else to get back to the old D-Will.

Question: Will we see Williams regain his All-Star form with the Nets again?

Burning Q's: How much does KG have left?

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
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Kevin GarnettESPN IllustrationIf Kevin Garnett returns, how much value can he still bring to the Nets?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining some burning questions with the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: How much does Kevin Garnett have left?

The Nets have said that all indications are that Garnett is returning for a 20th season.

However, the Boston Globe recently caught up with Garnett’s old coach Doc Rivers. He said he has been in touch with Garnett and that he wasn’t totally sure what Garnett will do.

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“We talked a couple of times, but the worst time I could talk to Kevin is right after the season, but I hear both [that he wants to play and that he wants to retire],” Rivers told the Globe. “I get a feeling he still wants to play, but I just don’t know.

“Kevin, in the summer, goes into hiding. Which is something I’ve always had a lot of respect for. I think more players should do that instead of doing all the stuff all summer; you see players everywhere. The reason Kevin has been able to play so long is during the offseason he goes underground. He recuperates. Not just physically.”

Let’s just assume Garnett returns, which raises the question: How much does he have left?

That question is really more for the playoffs than the regular season. I just don’t see the Nets playing Garnett a lot in the regular season as Lionel Hollins will likely take a similar approach to Jason Kidd by resting Garnett on back-to-backs and limiting his minutes.

Garnett averaged 20.5 minutes a game last season and might average slightly less than that this campaign. He played in 54 games in 2013-14 and will probably play around that number or fewer if his health holds up. He averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, but his value is more than statistics. It’s his ability to communicate on defense and get guys in the right place. His experience and leadership on and off the floor is valuable, and he can mentor Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee.

If Hollins can keep Garnett’s playing time down, I think KG can provide the Nets with 20 minutes of solid defense and rebounding in the playoffs. That could be plenty if Lopez is healthy and playing at full strength in the postseason.

If Lopez is healthy, the Nets won’t have to rely as heavily as they did on Garnett in the paint in the second round of the playoffs against the Heat. Also, Plumlee, a promising young big man, should continue to develop. So Garnett should have enough left in the tank to help the Nets similar to last season.

I know he faded down the stretch in that second round. I think he can be more like he was in the first round against Toronto, when he scored in double figures in four of the seven games and posted a double-double in Game 7.

Perhaps the bigger question with Garnett is how happy he will be this season. His close buddy Paul Pierce has gone to Washington after the Nets opted to go in a different direction. Kidd, the coach who helped persuade Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to come to Brooklyn in the first place, is also gone.

KG is a professional, though. If he decides to return, he will give all that he has on the court. And I think he has enough left in the tank to still be a key contributor.

Positional analysis: Coaching

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
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Lionel HollinsAP Photo/Seth WenigLionel Hollins looks to install a new system following Jason Kidd's sudden departure.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Nets currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at the coaching.

COACHING:

New additions: head coach Lionel Hollins, assistants Paul Westphal, Tony Brown, Joe Wolf and Jay Humphries.

Gone: head coach Jason Kidd, assistants Joe Prunty, Eric Hughes, Sean Sweeney.

Strengths: After going through last season with a first-time coach in Kidd, the Nets opted for a much more experienced man in Hollins. The defensive-minded coach should be a good fit with a unit that improved in the second half of last season. The no-nonsense coach is tough and should be ideal for the Nets' veteran-laden roster. He has worked well with big men like Marc Gasol, which should bode well for Brook Lopez.

Potential obstacles: With the Nets, health is a big key. Hollins will have to do what he can to keep Deron Williams and Lopez healthy after both underwent surgery during or at the end of last season. Kevin Garnett is one year older and Hollins will have to manage his minutes and games. The Nets lost Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston -- two key pieces -- in free agency. They basically replaced the veterans with combo guard Jarrett Jack and some younger, developing players, like Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev and second-round picks Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. Hollins will have to try to keep the Nets in contention while also developing some younger players. On top of all this, the Nets will be learning a new system from a new coach for the second time in a year.

Biggest challenge: Due in part to injuries, Kidd was not able to get Williams to play at a high level last season. Now, Hollins will try to get his star guard playing at an All-Star level again. Getting healthy is a major key for D-Will. And regaining his confidence and happiness is just as big. Can Hollins get the best out of him?

What they’re saying: “When I look at this team I look at some veteran players that can score, some young guys that are coming up and need to be developed,” Hollins said. “And when we start talking about style, I have to sit down and see through watching the tape just exactly what we want to do. I know that I want to play at a little quicker pace than they even played at, that we played at in Memphis. But I don’t want to run up and down the court and jack up shots. I want to be aggressive. I want to be tough defensively. I want to be tough mentally.”

Outlook: Kidd took over a team as a first-year head coach under win-now expectations. Hollins takes over now with the franchise lowering its championship aspirations after letting Pierce walk in free agency. The Nets still want to contend and make the playoffs. But they are realistic about their title hopes. In the offseason, the Nets wanted to get younger and more athletic but maintain a veteran core that can get to the playoffs. Hollins will have to balance it all and monitor and maintain the health of Williams, Lopez and Garnett.

Kidd had a rocky first season at the start before turning it around in the second half. But throughout it all, he maintained the respect of his veteran players. Now, Hollins will have to win over vets like KG, get the best out of D-Will and develop the likes of Bogdanovic and Karasev all while installing his system and establishing a new culture. After being out of basketball since 2013, Hollins has been itching for another crack. He comes to the Nets humbled and motivated. And the team will be looking to him to establish stability after the franchise’s dramatic split with Kidd.

Position analysis: Small Forward

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
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Andrei KirilenkoAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIAndrei Kirilenko can defend multiple positions and facilitate the offense as a passer.
Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Nets currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at shooting guard.

SMALL FORWARD

New additions: SF Bojan Bogdanovic

Returning/on roster: SF/PF Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF Mirza Teletovic, SG/SF Joe Johnson, SG/SF Alan Anderson, SG/SF Sergey Karasev

Gone: SF/PF Paul Pierce

The starter: Kirilenko or Teletovic. That is unless, as we noted in our shooting guard analysis, Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack start in the backcourt, in which case Johnson would move to the three spot.

The wild card: Bogdanovic. The Nets are extremely high on the 25-year-old rookie, whom they signed to a three-year, $10 million contract in the offseason. They acquired his rights in a draft night deal in 2011. He’s a 6-8 Croatian sharpshooter with a lot of potential. The way Brooklyn’s roster is constructed, it would appear that Bogdanovic is going to get a shot to contribute immediately. He said earlier this week numerous times that he feels he can do that.

Outlook: It feels like there is a lot of versatility at this position, a lot of guys who can do different things. Kirilenko can defend multiple positions and facilitate the offense as a passer. Teletovic, who could conceivably start at power forward, is a floor spacer, as is Bogdanovic. You know what you’re going to get from Johnson, who was dynamite in the playoffs last season. Anderson is a “D and 3” type player who is tough as nails. And Karasev has a lot of potential. The Nets viewed Pierce as a power forward at this juncture of his career, but he did play some small forward. Last season, Johnson moved to the three after Brook Lopez suffered a season-ending injury and Shaun Livingston was inserted into the starting lineup. Johnson was extremely potent out of the low post, both as a scorer and facilitator. When it comes to this position on the floor, Bogdanovic’s development is really going to be key. Perhaps -- and we emphasis perhaps -- he could even be the starter by season’s end.

Who will lead the Nets?

July, 22, 2014
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As free agency winds down, the Brooklyn Nets have added some much-needed youth and athleticism.

But did the Nets sacrifice two major attributes that they seemed so intent on adding just a year ago? When Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were introduced as Nets seated alongside Jason Kidd in a press conference at Barclays last summer, Brooklyn felt it had added two critical missing ingredients -– leadership and toughness.

With Kidd and Pierce now gone, where will the Nets turn for the leadership and toughness when they need it most this season? It appears that the Nets will have rely heavily on new coach Lionel Hollins for both.

Remember, the Nets felt that they were a tad too soft and lacked toughness, leadership and experience with the core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez after losing Game 7 in the first round to Chicago in 2013.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
Elsa/Getty ImagesIf Kevin Garnett returns for a final season, he can provide the leadership and toughness.
"You saw it, there were certain games where things just happened that you can't allow to happen," Nets general manager Billy King said last year. "At some point, you've got to knock a guy on his ass if they're doing things. You've got to take a hard foul and let them know you just can't do that. And we didn't do it."

If Garnett returns, as the Nets expect, for a final season, he can provide the leadership and toughness. However, Garnett will be the first to tell you that he feels much more comfortable leading and infusing the team with toughness by playing on the court and playing well. And unfortunately for Garnett, the 38-year-old big man will likely be playing limited minutes and perhaps even limited games.

So who will provide it on the court for the majority of a game? The Nets are hoping that Pierce, Kidd and Garnett’s toughness and leadership rubbed off on Williams, Johnson and Lopez in the one season they all had together –- a disjointed season at that due to all the injuries to Pierce, Garnett, Williams and Lopez.

The Nets’ toughness will certainly be a question mark entering this season. Before Williams and Lopez can begin to push anybody back, they’ll need to have confidence that they can push off on their surgically-repaired ankles and feet, respectively. It could take a while to regain that type of confidence again.

After losing Shaun Livingston in free agency, the Nets did add Jarrett Jack, a hard-nosed guard who won’t back down and can rise in pressure-packed moments. Fellow role players like Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson and Mason Plumlee also play with an edge.

And perhaps one of the new youthful additions -– Sergey Karasev, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson or Bojan Bogdanovic –- will surprise and exceed expectations and offset some of their inexperience with some toughness.

But this is where losing Pierce hurts. While Pierce won’t average 20-something points nightly, the veteran set a tone on many nights for the Nets. Look no further than the regular-season games against the Heat that had a big-game feel to them along with the first-round series when Pierce came up big against the Raptors, particularly on the road when the Nets needed him most.

Johnson may be the Nets' best go-to option but Pierce was the guy they often looked to when the moment called for leadership or experience. Johnson displayed a quiet toughness last season with his stellar play but he’s not the vocal-type of leader to grab the team and take charge like Pierce could.

Kidd might’ve been inexperienced as a head coach last season but the players all respected his vast playing experience and he wasn't afraid to make some gutsy postseason moves such as putting Anderson in the starting lineup for Livingston against Toronto with the season on the line.

Hollins, though, brings a wealth of experience and he’s known as a tough, no-nonsense coach. He has to be the guy who provides the intangibles that Kidd and Pierce took with them to Milwaukee and Washington, respectively.

Garnett won’t be on the floor as much as he would like. Williams and Lopez will be on the mend and taking things slowly at the start.

It’s gotta be Lionel to provide the toughness and leadership. If not, this coming season might feel a lot like 2013 again.

Would this Nets deal have been a winner?

July, 18, 2014
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What do you think of this “deal”?

Nets trade: Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston
Nets receive: Lionel Hollins, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev

Would you have considered it at the start of the offseason?

Obviously, the Nets did not make the trade above. But when you look at it, they basically did.

Out are Kidd, Pierce and Livingston. In are Hollins, Bogdanovic, Jack and Karasev.

On paper, it looks like the Nets got an upgrade at coach and a downgrade in personnel.

The games will have to be played, of course, to determine whether that is actually the case.

Early on, the Nets looked like a disaster last season. But then they got their act together, figured out who they were as a team, and began to thrive. Kidd, Pierce and Livingston all played a huge part in that. Kidd became a better coach with experience, Pierce’s leadership proved to be invaluable and Livingston was such a pivotal part of Brooklyn’s turnaround. It would’ve been nice if they all came back next season, with their system and identity already in place. But Kidd made his failed power play, and that was that.

Nevertheless, maybe Hollins will have an impact similar to a Steve Clifford or a Tom Thibodeau. Maybe Jack will revert back to being the dominant point guard he was in New Orleans and Golden State. Maybe Bogdanovic will live up to the hype.

We’ll just have to wait and see before determining whether this has all worked out in the end.

Question: How would you have viewed this “trade”? Let us know in the comments section below.

The difference a Pierce makes in Brooklyn

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
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Paul PierceNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesIn the span of a year, Paul Pierce helped revive a franchise that had meddled in mediocrity.
When you think about the Paul Pierce era in Brooklyn, you think about emotion.

You think about the stunned look Pierce wore on his face during a news conference on July 18, 2013, at Barclays Center, still struggling to come to the realization that he had been traded from Boston, the place he had spent the first 15 seasons of his future Hall of Fame career.

You think about Pierce fighting back tears the night he returned to TD Garden for the first time as a visitor on Jan. 26, 2014, the night he desperately needed in order to move on and be able to embrace his new home.

You think about Pierce screaming “That’s why they got me here!” after sticking the dagger in Toronto on April 19, 2014, silencing the raucous crowd at Air Canada Center and enabling the Nets to steal Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Raptors.

Pierce may have spent only one season in Brooklyn, but he sure had his share of unforgettable moments with the Nets.

***

It all started on June 27, 2013, when Brooklyn and Boston agreed in principle on the blockbuster trade that sent Pierce and teammate Kevin Garnett from the Celtics to the Nets in exchange for five players, three future first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap first-rounders in 2017.

A little over two weeks later, the deal became official. “Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets,” owner Mikhail Prokhorov said.

“You spend your whole, almost half your life in one city, you get used to it,” Pierce told ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan. “For you to make the move, it’s a huge adjustment. I mean, I know nothing else but Boston.”

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The math behind the Nets' moves

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
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In an effort to win at all costs, the Brooklyn Nets created a financial mess.

Now, they’re trying to get themselves out of it. They’re still going to spend. They just want to spend smarter.

Last season, the Nets paid out an NBA-record $90,570,781 in luxury taxes and $102,828,064 in player salaries, according to ShamSports.com .

Add those totals up, and you get $193,398,845. That’s a lot of money for a second-round playoff exit.

Also, as has been well-documented by now, Grantland reported that the Nets lost $144 million in basketball-related business in 2013-14 -- $131 million more than the next highest team. Again, a lot of money. Even if you take out the luxury taxes, the loss still comes to $53,429,219. Still, a lot of money even though, as Grantland pointed out, the figures above do not appear to do not appear to include benefits the Nets and owner Mikhail Prokhorov get from their ownership stake in Barclays Center.

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By now, you may be asking yourself the following: Wait, according to Forbes, isn’t Prokhorov worth $10.9 billion? Sure, but losing money is losing money. And remember this: Privately, according to a league source, Prokhorov is open to listening to offers from potential buyers. Publicly, he told reporters in a statement that he has no interest in selling the team. But in light of Steve Ballmer’s pending $2 billion bid to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, Prokhorov figured he’d at least get a gauge and see what his team is worth on the open market. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll definitely sell. It just means, at the very least, that he’s curious as to his team’s valuation.

After the Grantland report came out, the Nets issued a statement via Irina Pavlova, President of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment, the entity that oversees the franchise.

“Nets ownership has said from day one that the main goal was putting together a championship caliber team, and that no effort would be spared to this end,” Pavlova said. “So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that significant investments have been made in the roster and in upgrading basketball operations on all fronts. We are certain that the team will become profitable in time, as planned.”

The Nets did invest $45 million to build a brand-new practice facility in Brooklyn, which is slated to open in 2015-16. And they will, in all likelihood, lead the league in payroll again in 2014-15. But their decision-making when it came to deciding whether to retain Paul Pierce deviated from how they handled business in the past.

“We have the ability to pay him more than everybody else, but we are going to be a little bit more financially responsible at this point in time,” GM Billy King said.

By now, you know what happened. The Nets decided to pass on Pierce, and he signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Washington Wizards, which included a second-year player option.

Many, including myself, believed the Nets should’ve paid Pierce. Team brass, however, disagreed, determining that from both a basketball and a business perspective, according to league sources, it didn’t make sense. Pierce was turning 37 and the Nets felt like they were already set at power forward. They didn’t feel like they were going to win it all with him, and they wanted to give their younger players a chance. Pierce has yet to comment publicly. His take on the events that unfolded will be interesting.

Now let’s break down where the Nets are financially at this point. Here are their projected salary cap commitments in 2014-15.

The Nets currently have 12 players with guaranteed contracts. In our numbers in the chart on the right, we are assuming that Jorge Gutierrez’s non-guaranteed deal does become guaranteed and second-round pick Markel Brown signs. (The signings of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alan Anderson have yet to be made official by the team).

The tax line for 2014-15 was set at $76,829,000, meaning the Nets are over by $16,702,974, and must pay progressively on every dollar they exceed it (see ESPN salary cap guru Larry Coon’s blog and question 21 for more detailed information).

Total luxury taxes owed: $34,846,665.50
Total player salaries and luxury taxes: $128,378,639.50

Five years ago, when he first gained majority ownership of the Nets, Prokhorov said he wanted to win a championship by 2015. He was willing to do whatever it took to get there. Money wasn’t going to be an issue -- that is, until it became an issue.

Brooklyn’s ultimate plan is to have ample cap space in the summer of 2016, when the likes of Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah could become free agents. They would have to pay the repeater rate if they exceed the tax line in 2015-16, though they are unlikely to want to do that given they want to clear salary, not take money on.
Anyway, back to Pierce. Let’s say the Nets decided to pay him $6 million per season, bringing their total cap commitments up to $99,531,974. That would mean they would have to pay luxury taxes on $22,702,974, which means their total owed would be $55,386,152.50.

Add the player salaries and luxury taxes and you get $154,918,126.50.

So bringing back Pierce at $6 million would’ve cost the Nets an extra $26,539,487.

League sources told ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets have their eyes on the future, and don’t want their decision-making impacted by all the first-round picks they gave up in the blockbuster trade that brought Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn. Letting Pierce walk, they ultimately felt, was the right decision.

Take $193,398,845, subtract $128,378,639.50 and the Nets are spending $65,020,205.50 less on this season’s roster. Whether you agree with their decision is another story. But that’s the math behind it.
It was only a year ago when the Brooklyn Nets put their chips on the table and were all-in.

General manager Billy King sent three first-round picks to the Boston Celtics for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Nets had visions of Pierce, Garnett and rookie coach Jason Kidd bringing a black-and-white confetti parade to Brooklyn.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce is jetting off to Washington.
"Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets," owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement after the trade became official on July 12, 2013.

A year later, Kidd and Pierce are gone. Things have dramatically changed in Brooklyn about as fast as Kidd fast-breaked his way out of town.

The Nets, who compiled that $200 million roster with the sole purpose of winning it all, have shifted their approach, perhaps by a combination of choice and circumstances. They’ve gone from thinking only about immediately winning a title to more of an approach of remaining competitive but also being a bit smarter with their money and developing some younger talent.

League sources say the Nets decided not to offer a deal to Pierce that would match or exceed the two-year, $11 million deal he finalized with the Wizards late Saturday night.

The Nets owned Pierce’s Bird Rights and could have paid him as much as they wanted. But they passed on Pierce for a couple of reasons: They didn’t think they were going to win a championship with Pierce and this current roster and they also wanted to start developing some of their younger talent, according to sources.

Remember those days of Prokhorov spending money like it was going out of style? After the basketball side of the Nets’ business lost a projected $144 million over the 2013-14 season, as reported by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Brooklyn is going to be a bit more thoughtful about its spending.

The Nets still want to remain competitive but also reload when their cap situation is expected to allow them to in 2016-17. They just didn’t see a championship happening this season with LeBron James now in Cleveland with a stable of No. 1 overall picks and the Bulls hoping Derrick Rose comes back healthy and Chicago having reached an agreement with Pau Gasol.

There’s still Indiana to contend with, and the Raptors and Wizards are only going to get better.

So as it turns out, Pierce was just a one-year rental, now off to tutor John Wall and Bradley Beal on how to win. Kidd is in Milwaukee now coaching Jabari Parker. And that leaves Garnett with a decision to make.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce, Kevin Garnett
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsHow will Kevin Garnett react to playing in Brooklyn without his best friend?
Does the Big Ticket want to keep playing and return to Brooklyn for the final year of his contract, which is worth $12 million? A league source said the Nets fully expect him to.

But even if KG does come back, how happy will he be? Garnett is an absolute professional. But he clearly didn’t envision playing for the Nets without his best friend Pierce and Kidd gone just a year after waiving his no-trade clause.

This is just one factor that could lead to a potentially rocky start to the upcoming season for the Nets. Brooklyn is now going from all-in on winning a title to returning to their original blueprint for success.

The Nets are back to leaning heavily on Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson being good enough to keep them in playoff contention with the right surrounding pieces.

But remember that Williams and Lopez are both coming off surgery. The Nets simply have to take it slow with their two franchise players and make sure there are no more setbacks. After Williams suffered repeated setbacks in recent years, the point guard is going to want to make sure he doesn’t come back until absolutely ready. The Nets should also be just as cautious, if not more, with Lopez and his fragile feet. So Lopez should be on a minutes restriction and perhaps even held out of playing back-to-backs for a while.

Add on the fact that the Nets have a new head coach/new system to learn for the second time in a year while trying to develop some younger, inexperienced players and Brooklyn has the potential for another shaky start to the season.

Last season, the Nets got off to a disastrous 10-21 start. Lionel Hollins is a veteran coach who should be able to manage this start better than Kidd was able to last year before he finally got comfortable and the Nets got healthier.

Hollins and the Nets will also want to develop young talent like Mason Plumlee, Mirza Teletovic, recently acquired 20-year-old forward Sergey Karasev and prospect Bojan Bogdanovic, who will sign for their mini-midlevel exception sometime this week, according to sources.

Hollins won’t have Pierce’s leadership and experience to be the glue for the team. And he could have an unhappy KG on his hands. As you can see, the Nets are moving on from the Pierce-Garnett-Kidd era.

Some might criticize King for giving up three first-round picks for Pierce. It’s a heavy price to pay for basically getting the Nets out of the first round with a series-clinching block by Pierce against Toronto in Game 7 and the hope that his championship experience rubbed off on younger guys in just one season.

Was it a mistake to give up that many picks? Yes. But it does take courage for the Nets to realize this and basically cut their losses and alter their approach. The Nets are right in the fact that they weren’t going to win a championship even if Pierce, Garnett and Kidd returned for another season.

At the very best, the Nets might’ve been able to get past the second round if things had broken their way. The East is somewhat open since LeBron left Miami. Cleveland could go through growing pains with young players like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins still needing to learn how to win. And there are no guarantees with Rose’s health in Chicago.

Bringing back Pierce would have helped the Nets remain in the discussion, but not at the top of the East.

Perhaps the Nets also might’ve sensed the possibility that Pierce ideally wanted to be somewhere else. After the season ended, sources said Pierce really wanted to only play in two places -- either Brooklyn or for the Los Angeles Clippers and his former coach Doc Rivers.

That was before Kidd went through a messy divorce with the Nets. No matter who is to blame in the Kidd split, Pierce could not have liked seeing something as dramatic as that happen on the eve of free agency. The Nets looked a tad dysfunctional even if they were blindsided by the Kidd fiasco.

King moved quickly to stabilize the situation with the Hollins hiring. Now the Nets are also heading in a different direction than the championship-or-bust path they were moving in last summer.

Kidd is gone. And now Pierce is, too. KG could be next eventually.

Not even the basketball gods could have predicted this just one year ago.

Reaction: Pierce heads to Washington

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
1:52
AM ET
After going through a messy divorce with Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets are now saying goodbye to Paul Pierce.

After just one season with the Nets, Pierce is joining the Washington Wizards, signing a two-year, $11 million deal as first reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein.

What does this mean for the Nets? Let’s take a look:

One and done: This was supposed to be at least a two-year window. Or so we thought. The Nets surrendered three first-round picks in a blockbuster trade for Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer with hopes of winning a championship.

Jason Kidd helped convince Garnett to waive his no-trade clause and sold the two Boston vets on Brooklyn being a title contender with them. But their one-year together was a bag of mixed results.

The Nets got off to a rocky 10-21 start before turning things around and finishing 44-38. They needed seven games, and a Pierce series-clinching block to get past Toronto in the first round before losing to Miami in the second round in five games.

Kidd then left for Milwaukee after asking for and failing to receive control over basketball decisions. Now Pierce is gone to Washington, becoming just a one-year rental basically. The Nets also lost Shaun Livingston in free agency after the point guard signed with Golden State.

Moving on: Going into free agency, all indications were that the Nets wanted to keep Pierce but at perhaps $6-to-$8 million per season for a short-term deal. But league sources say the Nets ultimately decided to go in a different direction and passed on matching Washington’s offer. The Nets also passed on any sign-and-trade possibilities to get something in return for Pierce.

The team’s thinking is that it would like to develop younger talent at forward now after recently acquiring 20-year-old Russian forward Sergey Karasev in the Jarrett Jack deal. The Nets also are expected to sign prospect Bojan Bogdanovic, whom the Nets acquired in a draft night deal in 2011, for their mini-midlevel exception sometime this week according to sources.

Pierce’s departure also could mean more minutes for Mirza Teletovic, who had a breakout season.

Bottom line, the Nets are now banking on the core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez to step up and lead. Remember, Williams and Lopez are both making their way back from surgeries.

Big Ticket: What does this mean for KG? We will soon find out. The Nets still expect Garnett to return this season for the final year of his contract worth $12 million.

But Garnett could return and be unhappy. He clearly did not envision playing for the Nets without Pierce and Kidd when he waived his no-trade clause last summer. Garnett may be in the twilight of his career and maybe a 20-minute-a-night player who plays 50-60 games and sits on back-to-backs at this point. But he’s still an asset as far as being a positive influence on younger teammates and a mentor to the likes of Lopez and Mason Plumlee.

If Garnett returns and doesn’t like the situation, both sides could opt to try and seek a trade later in the season. We will have to wait and see if Garnett does return and how happy he will be now that his best friend Pierce is gone.

The Truth: Pierce averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 75 games for the Nets. He broke a bone in his hand early in the season but played a pivotal role in helping the Nets make their turnaround from that disastrous start by playing at power forward after Lopez was lost for the season.

He became a leader on the team in a short period of time and this was evident in big games against big opponents. Nets like Williams deferred to Pierce, who hit some big shots against Toronto and Miami in the playoffs. He didn't always have it, averaging just 13.7 points in the playoffs. But his experience and playmaking abilities had to always be accounted for.

His defining moment as a Net likely will be his series-winning block at the end of Game 7 to send the Nets into the second round.

Analysis: Fluid East landscape for Nets

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
3:37
PM ET


There’s been a seismic shift in the Eastern Conference with LeBron James' move to Cleveland.

How does this affect the Brooklyn Nets? Let’s take a look at the immediate landscape in the East for the Nets:

Cleveland rocks: LeBron's move back home makes the Cavs instant contenders. But things are still fluid. Reports are the Cavs are going to make a run at trying to trade for Kevin Love, which would certainly make Cleveland the obvious front-runner to win the East and the hot team to pick to win it all.

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But let’s say the Cavs don’t get Love and add just a few more veterans such as a Ray Allen-type to fill out the supporting cast. If that’s the case, the Cavs, Bulls and Pacers are likely the top three teams in the East.

We have to see how things shake out for the Bulls. If Carmelo Anthony ends up in Chicago, the Bulls could leapfrog the Cavs (assuming Love doesn’t end up with James). Also, we have to keep an eye on where Pau Gasol ends up. If Gasol winds up with an East team like the Bulls or Knicks, that is an upgrade for that team as well.

If the Knicks keep Anthony and then are able to find a way to add Gasol, the Knicks would move up. And you can’t forget about a young and up-and-coming Washington squad as well.

The Truth for the Nets: If Love doesn’t end up with the Cavs, the Nets have perhaps one thing going for them –- maybe this is where their experience will pay off. The Nets would need a lot of breaks. But if Cleveland enters the season with James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and their No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the Cavs could still have some growing pains. Even LeBron admitted as much in his essay in Sports Illustrated on tempering championship expectations for this season.

As great as Irving is, he and young talents like Waiters still must learn how to win, although they'll certainly benefit from James' help.

If the Nets find a way to re-sign Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett comes back for one more season, Brooklyn's roster would go into this postseason with two full seasons playing together. The Nets may not be favorites in the East, but they can remain in the discussion if the Bulls and Cavs don't make any more significant additions.

Deron and Brook: Brooklyn will hope Deron Williams and Brook Lopez will come back stronger and healthier from surgery.

They have to learn a new system, but with Lionel Hollins coaching vets such as Joe Johnson, and Jarrett Jack perhaps being a key contributor, the Nets could be a threat. In many ways, the Nets did not have a healthy and confident Williams in the playoffs last season. And Lopez was lost for the season back in December.

The Bulls (especially if Melo stays with the Knicks and Chicago doesn't make any major upgrades) still have to see if Derrick Rose can come back healthy. The Pacers have their flaws. The Cavs have LeBron but also have tantalizing but unproven young talent. The Wizards and Raptors, both young teams, also have to take another step forward. The road to the Finals, though, doesn’t run through Miami anymore.

Window closing: If anything, LeBron’s move might make it more imperative for the Nets to keep Pierce in the fold and pay him. Remember, Brooklyn created basically a two-year window to contend when it dealt for Pierce and Garnett last summer. Cleveland’s future looks incredible. But for this season alone, the Nets’ experience could pay dividends while the Cavs learn how to win.

The Nets just have to hope Love doesn’t end up in Cleveland and that Anthony doesn’t go to Chicago. The next week or two of free agency will likely define exactly where the Nets stand in the East.

Paul Pierce eliminated in WSOP

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
10:26
AM ET
Paul Pierce made a remarkable run in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event.

But his dreams of cashing were squashed early Friday morning, when he was eliminated just shy of the money.

According to ESPN.com’s poker expert Andrew Feldman, Pierce finished in around 800th place. The top 693 finishers get paid.

Nevertheless, Pierce has nothing to be ashamed of. This year’s tournament field featured 6,683 entrants, and the future Hall of Fame forward, who played last season with the Brooklyn Nets, nearly made it to Day 4 in the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event.

Pierce was ousted in tough fashion. He went all-in with a board of A-J-3-6-4. Pierce held A-4, two pair, but his opponent, after thinking for a few minutes, called and showed A-J, top two pair. (You can find more details here).

According to WSOP.com, Pierce uttered “Damn!” as he saw his opponent’s hand and revealed his own. He received a nice applause from the rail, which had grown as the days went on, and said, “Good run!” before exiting.

Pierce ultimately played 28 hours of poker without making any money. But don’t worry. He’ll be OK financially. $10,000 to Pierce, who made $15,333,334 in 2013-14, is the equivalent of $32.61 to a person who makes $50,000 a year.

As Feldman pointed out, a minimum cash is $18,406. Pierce would’ve made that in 2 1/2 minutes of playing time on the court last season.

The poker community certainly took to Pierce’s run. He frequently received massages, which cost between $1-3 a minute plus tip.



Pierce can now fully turn his attention to free agency -- when he further can increase his bankroll.

Sources: Pierce wants $9-10 million per year

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
5:37
PM ET
When it comes to negotiations for Paul Pierce, the Brooklyn Nets have their number -- and the veteran forward has his.

The Nets would like to pay Pierce around $6-8 million per season on a short-term contract, sources say.

Pierce, however, as first reported by Sports Illustrated and confirmed by ESPNNewYork.com, would like to be paid around $9-10 million.

Sources have said since before the start of free agency that it likely was going to take somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-10 million to entice Pierce to come back.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWill Paul Pierce stay in a Nets jersey next season?
“I think we’re in the process [of negotiations],” Nets GM Billy King said in a recent interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Michael Kay Show.” “We know the number we want to get to, I think [Pierce and his agent] know the number they want to get to. We’re just trying to get to the point where we’re all comfortable and I know what we’re trying to accomplish, and it’s just in the negotiation process. That’s all it is. We have the ability to pay him more than everybody else, but we are going to be a little bit more financially responsible at this point in time.”

The Los Angeles Clippers tried to engage the Nets in a sign-and-trade deal for Pierce, but King said it did not make sense for his team.

The Clippers are attractive to Pierce because he’d be reunited with his former coach, Doc Rivers, and he’s from Los Angeles. Plus, the Clippers are a Western Conference contender with a core that includes Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Other teams that miss out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony could also become interested in Pierce.

The Nets have Pierce’s Bird Rights, enabling them to pay him more money than any other team.

Pierce, who will turn 37 this season, made $15.3 million last season. He’s been on record as saying he’d like to play for another year or two.

Pierce’s longtime teammate, Kevin Garnett, is expected to return to Brooklyn for his 20th season. Garnett has yet to confirm his decision publicly, however.

Pierce is currently playing in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.

Two words: Pay Pierce

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4
2:54
PM ET


The Brooklyn Nets, you would think, need Paul Pierce more than he needs them.

So it certainly came as a surprise Thursday when Brooklyn GM Billy King, during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Michael Kay Show,” said the Nets would all of a sudden become fiscally responsible in their negotiations with the unrestricted free-agent forward.

Pierce has already drawn interest from several contenders, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Those are some extremely attractive options -- especially L.A., where Pierce could be reunited with his former coach Doc Rivers and get to play with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two of the most dominant players in the league.

The Nets’ biggest advantage over the competition when it comes to trying to retain Pierce is that they hold his Bird rights, enabling them to pay him more money than any other team.

But Brooklyn, sources said, would like to keep Pierce on a short-term contract worth between $6 million and $8 million a year.

It’s completely understandable that the Nets don’t want to overpay for Pierce. But they’ve already committed more than $90 million in player salaries for next season, so what’s the difference?

Why spend all that money only to suddenly practice austerity when it comes to keeping a future Hall of Fame forward who all but singlehandedly carried your franchise through to the second round with his late-game heroics in Toronto in Games 1 and 7?

The Nets made a huge splash last offseason, acquiring both Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics. They sacrificed three future first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018) and a potential first-round-pick swap (2017) to obtain those players.

Every indication points toward Garnett returning for his 20th season, while taking home $12 million for his work in 2014-15. But it remains to be seen whether Pierce, who provided leadership, tenacious defense and the occasional offensive outburst, will join his longtime teammate in Brooklyn or go elsewhere.

The Nets did lose $144 million in basketball-related activities last season, as Grantland reported. Most of that was attributed to luxury taxes; Brooklyn is going to be handing over a check to the league for a record of nearly $92 million.

Maybe it’s just posturing. Still, with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez rehabbing from surgeries and Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko and Garnett all getting a year older, now isn’t the time to give Pierce another reason to walk.

Even with the unfortunate departure of Shaun Livingston, this team should have plenty of depth behind its core group. Mason Plumlee (24) and Markel Brown (22) will provide much-needed athleticism, while Mirza Teletovic (27) will be asked to space the floor once again. Throw mini midlevel exception target Bojan Bogdanovic (25) into the mix, and you’re talking about the beginnings of a quality youth movement.

Still, this team is built on veterans, and Pierce -- even if he might not have much left in the tank entering his age-37 campaign -- needs to be one of them. That’s not to say the Nets should have to pay him the $15.3 million he made last season. But they need to give him enough so he’s not tempted to depart for greener pastures elsewhere.

That’s their advantage: money. And they need to use it. Ever since owner Mikhail Prokhorov has taken over, they have. There’s no reason to stop now.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8