When the Celtics pulled the plug on their championship aspirations by trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, it wasn’t because those two Hall of Fame players were completely finished.
Salary considerations — along with the reality that even if the core stars were kept together in Boston for one more season, it still wouldn’t have been enough to get out of the Eastern Conference — were among the deciding factors in the team deciding to begin the rebuilding process sooner rather than later.
Pierce and Garnett can both still play at a high level, and that’s what the Nets were banking on when they agreed to take on the payroll and somewhat ridiculous luxury tax bill that it will be paying with those two in the fold next season.
Former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers believes it was a wise investment.
“I think obviously Paul’s younger and in tune to play more minutes than Kevin,” Rivers said. “But I think they’re still at the top of their games. I think Paul is still one of those guys who can go off for big nights and still have big scoring nights. Kevin is a culture change. He won’t play but 20 to 25 minutes a night and there’ll probably be nights when he doesn’t play but his presence there alone will absolutely change the culture of Brooklyn. There’s no doubt about it. I think for some of the young guys, even some of the veteran stars, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, will learn and understand what a winner is and looks like and professionalism and being prepared.
“That’s what I was most impressed with Kevin, how every game he prepared himself for games. That’s what I told our young guys that I just wanted them to watch him prepare for games. It was why he was so consistent. I thought it was that important.”
The example Pierce and Garnett will set for the rest of the Nets form a professional standpoint while having the experience of winning a championship to draw from will be an invaluable contribution to the franchise.
Rivers is obviously coming from a place of great bias when talking up two of his former players, but he’s not wrong, either. Pierce and Garnett do still have plenty to contribute, and should make the Nets a very interesting team to watch next season.