NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Pierce blasts time with Nets, questions Williams’ leadership — When the Boston Celtics dealt franchise mainstays Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn in the summer of 2013, the idea was those two would provide the veteran leadership needed to help the Nets realize their long-held Finals dreams. That’s not quite what happened, though. Brooklyn stumbled out of the gates in 2013-14, then turned things around and eventually won Game 7 in a first-round series against Toronto … and lost in the East semis to the Miami Heat. Pierce left as a free agent last summer to sign with the Washington Wizards and is enjoying life there today. He opened up to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan about how much he disliked playing in Brooklyn and had some harsh words for Nets point guard Deron Williams, too:
“I’m much happier,” he said. “It was a tough situation (in Brooklyn) last year. Horrible, really.
“It was just the guys’ attitudes there. It wasn’t like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn’t want to play and didn’t want to practice. I was looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.
“If me and Kevin weren’t there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.”
The player that puzzled him the most, said Pierce, was point guard Deron Williams.
“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.
“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”
Pierce said veteran Joe Johnson was an affable professional but also a reluctant leader.
“Joe is quiet,” Pierce noted. “He doesn’t want much attention. He doesn’t say much.
“There’s a lot of secondary guys on that team. KG and I went there looking at them as the main guys who would push us, because we were advancing in years. But we ended up doing all the pushing.”
When the season ended, they declined to sign Pierce to a new deal and let him walk as a free agent.
“I would have stayed in Brooklyn because of Kevin,” Pierce said. “I told him, ‘I don’t really like this situation but I would never leave you if you want me to stay.’ But they decided not to re-sign me so I never had to make a choice. I would never have left Kevin like that.”
Pierce still engages in group texts with former Celtics teammates (and coach) Doc Rivers, Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis, but hasn’t talked to Ray Allen since he bolted from Boston to Miami in the summer of 2012.
Though much has been made of it, Pierce said, people don’t understand he wasn’t all that close to Allen to begin with.
“It was a weird relationship,” Pierce conceded. “We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That’s just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we’d be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn’t show up. We’d go to his charity events but Ray wouldn’t show up to somebody else’s.
“I called him on it. I said, ‘Man, Ray, we support all your stuff but when we ask you, you don’t come to ours.’ I remember when Rondo re-signed with Boston, we had a little dinner at a restaurant and Ray didn’t show up.
“I know Ray probably didn’t like Rondo that much, but it wasn’t a fact of not liking somebody. You don’t have to like everybody you play with — it’s a matter of showing support.”