Billy King: Paul Pierce too expensive for Nets

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The Nets have rung up record payrolls the last couple years, leaving the luxury-tax line in their dust.

Finally, that cost reached a tipping point.

Everyone expected Paul Pierce to return to Brooklyn, where his buddy, Kevin Garnett, was waiting. Instead, Pierce signed with the Wizards.

Was Pierce less satisfied with the Nets than we realized? Maybe.

But money definitely played a role.

Nets general manager Billy King, via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“That was the plan of attack, and when we started negotiations, the numbers they asked for were [too high], and I thought at one point he was definitely leaving,” said King.

“So, you start switching gears because you start hearing he’s going to end up some other place so you have to start preparing, and when he came back to us we had already moved on.”

“Our goal is not to be where we were,” King said, referring to the Nets’ record payroll and luxury-tax bill last season of over $190 million. “We got there last year, but that wasn’t the intent when we started.

To offer Pierce the same $5,305,000 the Wizards are paying him would have cost the Nets $23,182,695 in direct salary and luxury-tax payments – and that’s giving Brooklyn the benefit of the doubt of waiving all its partially guaranteed and unguaranteed players.

In recent years, the Nets probably would have splurged. They lack the cap exceptions to land a suitable replacement, so it was keep Pierce or lose Pierce. The money saved couldn’t go toward another player.

But now, the Nets let him walk, and they’ll be worse on the court because of it. It might have been a sound decision in the grand scheme, but these are the tradeoffs teams evaluate every day.

Now that the Nets are no longer willing to break the bank every year, they’re realizing how the rest of the league operates. Occasionally, that means losing a player like Pierce.