Former Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce set the NBA world ablaze with his criticism about last year’s Nets team, saving specific criticism for Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Brooklyn’s two highest-paid players.
But the response from Williams and Johnson? Little more than a shrug. (Maybe that was Pierce’s problem with them all along.)
In an interview with ESPN.com, Pierce labeled Johnson as lacking leadership qualities, citing that he was “quiet” and “he doesn’t want much attention.”
Johnson said he was unaware of the comments Pierce made about him. When he heard Pierce’s description of him as a quiet loner, he laughed. “He’s probably right. He’s right about me. He’s absolutely right.”
Johnson said the criticism didn’t bother him. “I’ve been criticized before, it’s not the first time, it definitely won’t be the last. So it doesn’t bother me one way or another. If that’s how Paul felt, that’s how Paul felt. He’s entitled to his opinion. … It is what it is. It doesn’t bother me. Does it surprise me? I don’t know, kinda. But it doesn’t matter.”
Johnson also took the high road when describing Pierce as a teammate, saying he had “nothing negative” to say. He noted that Pierce was correct in his assertion that he & Garnett were the true leaders of last year’s team.
“I thought (Paul) was a great teammate,” Johnson said. “I played with Paul my rookie year. I came in, he was my vet. So I seen two sides of it. So it was different, a lot different last year than my first year. As a rookie, you don’t get no respect. It’s do this, do that. It’s just how it is, you have to earn your way.
“But yeah, last year, he’s right. Him and KG were the leaders. They led us through the good and the bad. So I don’t have nothing negative to say.”
Pierce saved his more pointed criticism for Williams, saying that the point guard was not mentally prepared for the New York spotlight, adding that Williams “just didn’t want” to be an MVP candidate.
Williams had read the comments but shrugged them off. “Not bothered at all (by what Pierce said). Being here, I got pretty thick skin. He has his opinions and that’s fine.”
But Williams was a bit more severe when it came to Pierce’s comments about the Nets as a group, in which he characterized the Nets as “vets who didn’t want to practice and didn’t want to play,” and that the Nets needed Garnett & Pierce or the team would have folded.
“He just had his own opinions. It is what it is,” Williams said. “I can’t change his opinions. So just leave it at that.”