BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It’s unclear which idea is easier to believe: A tornado of sharks or Paul Pierce playing for the Brooklyn Nets. The former (“Sharknado”)was just a terrifically bad TV movie, while the latter became one step closer to reality on Thursday as the Nets introduced Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry on the floor of the Barclays Center.
We forget that it was just three years ago that the New Jersey Nets completed one of the worst seasons in NBA history and that the following season, they were starting Travis Outlaw at small forward. Since then, general manager Billy King has turned Devin Harris into Deron Williams, Courtney Lee into Joe Johnson, Outlaw into Pierce, and Kris Humphries into Garnett, all while keeping a young and talented All-Star center in Brook Lopez.
And it’s not like this new team is only five deep. They should have one of the better second units in the league with Terry, Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche also in the fold. And with franchise hero Jason Kidd taking over as coach, Nets fans might feel the need to pinch themselves.
Pierce looked like he needed to do the same. After 15 years with the Boston Celtics, the idea of playing for another franchise was not easy to swallow. And it was clearly written on his face as he sat on that dais that he wasn’t 100 percent ready to start repping Brooklyn. As evidenced by the amount of Boston media that made the trip down, this day was almost as much about the end of an era in Boston it was about the superteam that Nets have put together.
But it was Pierce who sold Garnett – over a 90-minute phone call – on the idea making this change. He knew where the Celtics were heading when they were discussing Doc Rivers‘ departure earlier in the summer and he knew that he’d be making a big adjustment whether he stayed in Boston or not.
“You sort of kind of felt it coming,” Pierce said. “You figured if Doc was going to be leaving, you figured that was going to be the end of an era of me, Kevin and [Rajon] Rondo together.”
And though he still clearly needs some time to get used to his new reality, Pierce said Thursday that he’d rather be winning in Brooklyn than rebuilding in Boston.
“When you get that taste of success, you get that good meal or a taste of something good, you don’t want to go backwards,” he said. “That’s how I felt. I think Doc felt the same way. Kevin felt the same way. And that’s why all of us put ourselves in these situations where we can try to win.”
So here they are. Two guys that have bled green for the last six years wearing the black and white of a franchise that has seemingly reinvented itself twice in the last 13 months. And if you had any doubts that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wasn’t afraid to spend money, realize that he just flew across the world in his Gulfstream to show up late for a 90-minute press conference.
But even Prokhorov knows that it takes more than a willingness to pay $80 million in luxury tax to win a championship.
“In the NBA, money, it’s important,” he said. “But you can’t buy a champ only spending money. The most important is to put pieces together and to create championship contender.”
The next step is getting Brooklyn’s Big 8 together on the floor. Right now, they’re a great team on paper. But so were the Lakers last season. Garnett and Pierce will be 37 and 36 years old respectively when the season starts, and LeBron James still resides in Miami.
For the Nets to challenge the Heat this season, they will need to stay healthy, play defense and develop chemistry. Pierce and Garnett did just that in Boston six years ago. But though they came a few minutes away from another championship in 2010, they’re still seeking a second ring.
“I felt like the difference in the years we spent in Boston when we won vs. when we didn’t,” Garnett said, “was just how we dealt with each other and how we communicated with each other.
“That’s going to be the biggest question mark for this team, how well are we able to jell and how quickly are we able to jell.”
The good news is that Pierce and Garnett bring six years of chemistry with them, and having a partner in this transition was critical for both of them. Though leaving Boston was difficult, they know that they have the potential to win big in Brooklyn. They wouldn’t have come if Williams, Johnson and Lopez weren’t already here.
It’s just a shame that we have to wait more than three months to see how all of this will work out.
“I’m here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn,” Pierce said. “It’s sinking in and I’m liking what I feel right now.”