New Nets have championship dreams

Updated: July 19, 2013, 1:02 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce believes his new team is primed to make a run at the Eastern Conference title, although the veteran small forward has a bigger goal in mind for the Brooklyn Nets: capturing the NBA championship.

"I think we're going to be right up there with the best of them," Pierce said Thursday.

"Obviously I would've loved to have finished my career in Boston, but that day and age is finally over with. My ultimate drive is winning a championship."

Pierce was introduced in front of a large media contingent along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry at the Barclays Center. Garnett, Pierce and Terry were obtained in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics.

"We are going to kick butt and take names," Terry told ESPN New York 98.7 FM's Ryan Ruocco on Thursday.

"There's something in the air here that says the Brooklyn Nets will be the NBA champions next year."

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov made a last-minute decision to attend the news conference and spend a few hours saying hello to his newest additions.

Prokhorov has said he'll get married if the Nets don't win a title by 2015; they are in the fourth year of his five-year championship plan.

"I can assure you that no process for the time being [of] looking for a wife is underway. This is for sure," Prokhorov said jokingly. 

Pierce appeared to be in a daze as he sat on the stage, clearly still getting over the fact that he'll no longer be playing in Boston, where he spent the first 15 seasons of his career.

"It hasn't really sunk in. I think it is really starting to sink in as we speak," Pierce said. "I saw my jersey up in the locker room. [When] you saw the trade, it's like, 'OK, there is a trade.' But for me to actually be here, looking for a place to live, being in this arena, trying to get to know my way around the city, it is really starting to sink in now that it has become real. I am no longer a Boston Celtic, I'm a Brooklyn Net, that is what it is right now. At some point I have to move on. I am here trying to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn."

Free-agent signee Andrei Kirilenko could not attend because of personal obligations overseas, Nets general manager Billy King said.

The Nets-New York Knicks rivalry is obviously on everyone's minds, as well -- although all the players responded no when asked their opinions on which team is No. 1 in the city.

"I think we're talking about a championship, so it doesn't matter if it's Miami, Chicago, Indiana, it's New York, too," first-year coach Jason Kidd said. "It is a nice rivalry here between the two of us, and hopefully we can get the better of them this year, but the big picture is that championship trophy, and that's why we're up here. The gold trophy is what we're here for."

[+] EnlargeBrooklyn Nets new players
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesKevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry answer questions at their introductory news conference with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Asked if he was looking forward to facing rival Carmelo Anthony, Garnett responded, "I'm looking forward to joining the Brooklyn Nets."

King, who orchestrated the trade, which sent Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries ($12 million expiring), MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans (sign-and-trade), Kris Joseph (waived), three future first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap firsts in 2017 with Boston, hopes critics continue to doubt Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 35. King believes the veteran duo will prove its critics wrong.

The Nets had to persuade Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to complete the deal. They also had to guarantee his full $12 million salary for 2014-15, according to a league source.

"Obviously having Jet [Terry] and Paul with me was a really really big issue," Garnett said. "I don't know anyone who loves change, but change has to happen for things to be better. When I sat down and let the dust sort of settle and got all the facts, that is when I made my decision after knowing all the options and thinking what I am going to do. And didn't rush. I wanted to see how I felt about the whole thing of leaving Boston, change, retiring, how long you want to play, desire ... and then I made my decision on a clear mind and clear head and here we are."

The Nets believe the additions put them in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference along with the likes of the two-time defending-champion Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls.

Garnett was asked what it will take for the Nets to win the title.

"What you end up giving up. Sacrifice. For this team to win, everybody is going to have to sacrifice to win games," Garnett said. "Defense is going to have to be a priority. You are going to have to do some things that you don't necessarily want to do or are comfortable doing. To me, those are the things that can make a difference in winning teams and teams that are not winning. You come in and are used to getting 20-25 shots, can you come in and still give to the team with 12 or less than shots? Maybe defense isn't your thing. Can you put forth an effort and play team defense? Here's the things that, to me, that I have seen and noticed that are the difference between winning and losing."

The Nets' projected starting five -- Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez -- has combined to go to 35 All-Star Games.

Brooklyn's bench is expected to be extremely deep and will feature Shaun Livingston, Terry, Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans. Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee also could figure in the rotation.

A league source said the team's payroll for next season is around $101 million, while its projected luxury-tax bill is around $83 million.

The Nets have sold more than $3 million in full season tickets since the official announcement that Garnett, Pierce, Kirilenko and Terry would join the team. They are 800 full season-ticket plans shy of reaching their 13,000 full season-ticket cap.

The Nets also acquired D.J. White in the trade, but they waived him Thursday. White had a non-guaranteed contract, and the Nets had to make a decision on him by Aug. 1.

Garnett, Pierce and Terry were all featured in a photo in their Nets jerseys on the Barclays Center's giant video screen.

When he walked onto the stage, Garnett clapped his hands and gave a salute to the media and those in attendance. He said, "'Sup Brooklyn! Yeah!"

The Nets said around 175 media members attended Thursday's news conference. Eighty-five attended Kidd's news conference.

The trio said the biggest challenge it will face entering the season is building chemistry.

"We've got the pieces to contend for a championship, and that's our goal," King said. "This is a great day for Brooklyn, for basketball and for the organization."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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