The Brooklyn Nets were opening up Barclays Center and owner Mikhail Prokhorov opened up his checkbook and told GM Billy King to go buy him a winner. Prokhorov wanted a team that could open that building.
But the 44-38 Nets never lived up to that hype. They weren’t bad, but they were bounced in the second round by the Miami Heat. This season the Nets need help just to make the playoffs.
What went wrong? The players there weren’t committed, wouldn’t make the effort needed to win, according to Paul Pierce.
Pierce had clearly reached the “I don’t give a s— what people think” stage of his career (there’s an open seat next to Kobe Bryant) and was brutally honest about what he saw in Brooklyn last season in an interview with great Jackie MacMullan for ESPN.com.
“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.”
He said the problem started at the point guard spot with 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 Joe Johnson mostly just wanted to be left alone; he wasn’t a leader either.
What Pierce said on the record is what a lot of people around Brooklyn said off of it the last couple years. The Truth was speaking the truth. The Nets didn’t want to re-sign Pierce, who instead signed in Washington.
To be fair, Pierce and KG were not exactly their vintage selves in Brooklyn either.
You could see what Pierce said about Brooklyn’s effort and passion play out this year as well. The Nets battled injuries but struck fear in nobody really. It took a motivated Brook Lopez — right before he could be a free agent and get paid. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.
Pierce has plenty to say about other players as well — John Wall and Bradley Beal, Rajon Rondo, and others. This is a must-read piece that the league will be talking about for days.