With the additions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets were deemed the team with the best chance to dethrone LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Brooklyn mortgaged their future in the swap for Pierce, Garnett and Terry, but they believed the trio of seasoned veterans paired with the dynamic backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson could land them squarely in the NBA title hunt.
The Nets, who went 44-38, weren’t a terrible ball-club, but they weren’t the powerhouse many assumed they’d be. They reached the second of the playoffs before being sent on vacation by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Heat.
A year removed from that underwhelming regular season campaign, and the Nets are currently scratching and clawing for another postseason appearance with one game left in the year. They’ve gotten stomped in must-win games down the stretch of the season, and didn’t appear to zeroed in on winning during the earlier parts of the year.
The fragility Brooklyn has shown as a team this year comes as no surprise to Pierce, the current starting small forward for the Washington Wizards. When speaking to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com, Pierce recalled what caused his lone season in Brooklyn to be such a washout:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Williams, who rivaled Chris Paul as one of the league’s best young point guards during the mid-2000’s, has seen a major dip in his productivity with Brooklyn, and his confidence at times has appeared to be in shambles.
Pierce’s assessment about the Nets’ effort is spot-on, as head coach Lionel Hollins scolded the team several times this season for their energy level in games. Brooklyn wasn’t even viewed as a threat for the playoffs until they got more athletic with the trade of Thaddeus Young, and Brook Lopez started playing out of his freaking mind (HINT HINT: he can become a free agent this summer.)
Pierce’s interview with MacMullan is a must-read, as he touches on John Wall and Bradley Beal’s desire to be great, and his relationship with former Celtics teammate Ray Allen.