With the Nets looking to shed what they’ve got, Paul Pierce reminded them that they miss what they had: Paul Pierce.
The Nets take on the Washington Wizards tonight in the first game of a back-to-back home-and-home set, marking the first time the team sees Pierce in an opposing uniform since acquiring him with Kevin Garnett in the 2013 offseason. The two reportedly had dinner together last night.
“Any team misses Paul Pierce,” Pierce said, speaking in third person, to reporters the morning before the game. “Period.”
Pierce also said he didn’t feel any added motivation or excitement playing Brooklyn, according to that report: “It’s just like any other game, truthfully. I was only there for one year.”
After leaving behind last year’s team, which featured Pierce as a nominal power forward in a “longball” lineup that made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Nets have taken numerous steps back. They are now 16-23, having lost seven straight games, and rank as one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams.
Brooklyn’s loss has been Washington’s gain. Pierce has maintained his production from last season with the Wizards, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 27-12, averaging 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 26.6 minutes per game, shooting 38.8 percent from three-point range. The Wizards are the league’s most efficient team from beyond the arc.
Pierce is just one prong of Washington’s balanced attack. They’re led by John Wall, an explosive playmaker and improving defender sure to make his first All-Star Game this season. Wall has averaged 17.4 points and a league-leading 10.2 assists per game for the Wizards this year. The Wizards surround Wall with shooters in Pierce, Bradley Beal (hitting threes at a ridiculous 47.1 percent clip this season), and Rasual Butler (even better at 47.2 percent), with bruising center Marcin Gortat and the rock-solid Nene handling interior duties.
The Nets elected not to sign Pierce, who would have cost them close to $22 million per season after factoring in the luxury tax payments, and the Wizards inked Pierce to a two-year deal.