Two offseasons ago, the Nets acquired Paul Pierce with championship aspirations. But after an ugly split, Pierce hasn’t shied from expressing his distaste in how things turned out.
Pierce hasn’t ever been known for holding things back. That’s why they call him “The Truth,” after all: he’s willing to speak his mind on any situation. And in an interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com, Pierce did just that, ripping his former Nets teammates and the organization.
Pierce, who spent one season in Brooklyn after a blockbuster traded that brought him and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, said his situation in Brooklyn was “horrible” and that veteran players didn’t care enough in games and practices.
An excerpt from the interview:
“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.”
Pierce added that Deron Williams puzzled him, citing the spotlight of NYC, and that the quiet Joe Johnson “doesn’t want much attention”:
“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.”
Following the Nets’ second-round exit to the Miami Heat, the Nets elected not to re-sign Pierce after one season, and the forward went to the Washington Wizards on a two-year deal worth $11 million. The deal would have cost the Nets over $20 million per season when factoring in the luxury tax,[note]At least for the first season. The second year is unclear, as the Nets might end up under the tax when all is said and done.[/note] and after some initial discussions, the Nets never returned to the table.
Pierce says that Garnett would have played a factor in him returning to the team had he received an offer, but later became disgruntled with how the Nets “(didn’t) appreciate” Garnett’s influence. Garnett was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the trade deadline, where he spent the first 12 seasons of his career:
“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.”
Garnett was traded in February to Minnesota, where he will eventually assume a front-office role as a part-owner.
“He’s happy,” Pierce said. “I’m glad he waived his no-trade clause. I told him, ‘They don’t appreciate you in Brooklyn, man.’ They didn’t even use him right.
“He’s where he’s supposed to be. He IS Minnesota. He never sold his house there.”
Pierce’s per-minute production has remained steady since leaving Brooklyn: he’s averaging 12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in 72 starts for the playoff-bound Wizards, shooting 39.2 percent from three-point range.
Full interview below.