Nets enter new era with introductions of Garnett, Pierce
The Nets ushered in a new era Thursday as they introduced Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the borough.
Pierce, Garnett and Terry were acquired in a trade with the Celtics last week.
“This is a great day for Brooklyn, the organization and basketball,” general manager Billy King said. “You want to add players with a championship pedigree.”
And while free agent and Russian native Andrei Kirilenko did not attend as previously scheduled, due to an overseas obligation, there was a surprise appearance by owner Mikhail Prokhorov at the end of the press conference. He did not take questions.
Championship was on the mind of all the players involved, with each invoking the mantra during their opening remarks.
“The ultimate drive is winning a championship and obviously Boston is going in another direction,” Pierce said. “We’re all about winning a championship and Brooklyn gives us the best opportunity.”
Brooklyn reportedly investigated trading for Pierce at the trade deadline, but couldn’t get a deal done. When they picked talks back up in June, the Nets also worked in Garnett. The trade was agreed to during the NBA Draft on June 27, but could not be finalized until the free agent signing period began on July 10. The Nets dealt Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans and two first-round picks to Boston.
Garnett, who had a no-trade clause in his contract, ended up being the key to the deal.
“Having Jet [Terry] and having Paul with me was a really, really big issue [in waiving his no-trade clause],” “I don’t know anyone that loves change but change has to happen to get better.”
Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 35, have known each other for most of their lives, competing with and against each other from the high school level to the pros. They teamed up in Boston where won the NBA title in 2008 and went to the Finals again in 2010.
But it was Pierce who symbolized the city of Boston more than Garnett. He was drafted by the Celtics in 1998 with the No. 10 overall pick and played with Boston for 15 seasons. He became the biggest fan favorite since Larry Bird and clearly was the most emotional about leaving the city.
“It’s tough when you’re in a situation for 15 years and you come to a situation with the Brooklyn Nets,” Pierce said. “It really brings a little bit of excitement. Obviously I would’ve loved to have finished my career in Boston. I just … when the trade happened, you felt excited, especially with Kevin and Jason coming along with me.
“It hasn’t really sunk in. I think it’s starting to really sink in as we speak,” Pierce said. “For me to actually be here, look for a place to live, being in this arena, finding my way around this city. I’m a Brooklyn Net now. … I’m here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn.”
The trade didn’t come as a surprise for all involved, even Pierce. Boston decided to adopt a rebuilding campaign in the offseason. Head coach Doc Rivers left for the Clippers and the dominoes continued to fall with Garnett and Pierce being dealt.
“If Doc was going to be leaving, you figured this was going to be the end of the era,” Pierce said.
It was new head coach Jason Kidd who got the biggest laughs when asked about the rivalry with the Knicks. Kidd played with New York last season.
“I thought this was for the players only,” Kidd joked. “We’re talking about a championship. There’s a nice rivalry between the two of us, so hopefully we can get the better of them the side in that rivalry; so hopefully we can win more games. But the gold trophy is what we’re here for.”
Terry leveled a tremendous amount of praise on Kidd, whom he played with in 2011 with Dallas. The team won the NBA Championship. Current Knicks center Tyson Chandler was also a starter on that team.
“Playing alongside Jason was a dream come true,” Terry said. “[He is] the best point guard to play the game in my eyes. If there was a play that needed to be drawn up, he was doing it. … He was phenomenal. I believe this transition [to coaching] will be as smooth as ever.”
The players deferred a question about how many minutes they would be playing to their head coach. Kidd emphasized he would focus on keeping the veterans fresh for the playoffs and said he would keep them out of games occasionally. Pierce averaged 33.4 minutes per game last season, the fewest of his career. Garnett also averaged the fewest minutes (29.7 per game) in 2012-13 since he was a rookie in 1995-96.
The Nets also cut loose D.J. White on Thursday. White was acquired as part of the trade, but mostly for salary purposes.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.