The final parameters of the big deal appear to be these: The Nets acquire Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry for three first round picks in 2014, 2015 and 2016; Kris Humphries expiring contract; Keith Bogans' signed-and-traded contract; Gerald Wallace's supposedly untradeable contract; and (most report) Reggie Evans. Josh Newman of SNY Nets and Chris Broussard say MarShon Brooks, not Evans, is headed to Boston. We couldn't get confirmation.
The deal cannot be finalized until first, the Celtics agree not to exercise their team option on Pierce and then both sides wait for the league's 10-day moratorium to end. No press conferences or round-the-clock media interviews until then
But what will the Nets look like and where else are they likely to strike in free agency ... and they will. Plans are already in place if closely held.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Nets gain veteran toughness, championship experience and big game performance. Pierce, Garnett and Terry have three NBA championship rings between them. Garnett also has two Olympic gold medals. "The Truth" and "The Ticket" also have 25 All-Star games between them.
Pierce may have shot poorly and looked old in the playoffs vs. the Knicks, but his numbers last year were typical of him: 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, with shooting percentages of 43.6% overall and 38% from deep. He missed only five games and averaged 33.4 minutes.
More importantly, Pierce gives them something else that is unquestioned (if healthy): a desire to take the big shot. As one Nets insider said last night. "We have Pierce in Game 7 of Bulls series, we win. In big situations, he wants the ball."
Garnett is older and his decline has been more noticeable, but there is no tougher player in the NBA and none who can bring more franchise-changing character. (How do you say Ubuntu in Russian?) If any reminding is necessary, a quick look at the video of the Boston-Brooklyn on Christmas Day should suffice. Still, his production is declining along with this minutes. The Celtics kept him to 30 minutes per game, religiously. In 2012-13, he averaged 14.8 and 7.8. Not bad numbers, but a shadow of what he was (if not who he was, which never seems to change.
Terry is a Boston salary dump, period. The Nets may even be looking to trade him in a one-on-one, but it's hard to see who takes his $10.7 million over two years. After averaging between 15.1 and 17.1 points per game over the seven years prior to this last one, Terry dipped all the way down to 10.1 points per game this season. His shooting percentage was his second worst in nine years. His minutes the fewest since his rookie year. His playoff numbers were a third under his career numbers. Perhaps his Maverick teammate Jason Kidd gets him back into reasonable stride ... if he stays.
The other addition on Thursday night was 23-year-old Mason Plumlee, who will be a rookie, but a rookie who played four years for Mike Krzyzewski and has a brother in the NBA. The Nets who talked about adding shooting in the draft, instead took a seven-footer whose shooting skills are limited. He is however stone athletic. Chad Ford wrote of him Friday morning,
"(T)hey kept their 2013 first-round pick and landed Plumlee, the most athletic big in the draft not named Noel. Plumlee slid in the draft because of his age. Had he been 19 or 20 years old, he would've been a lottery pick. But at 22, teams question how much upside he has. He runs the floor and finishes high above the rim, but he will probably be relegated to spot minutes in a backup role." (Memo to Ford: the Nets liked him BECAUSE of his age and experience, not in spite of it.) Can Garnett help him? Sure.
The other side of the ledger, the Nets did lose some things. They are now the oldest team in the NBA, but without the chemistry. They have the biggest payroll and few picks. And some strengths may have become weaknesses.
Assuming Evans is headed to Boston, the Nets gave up a lot of rebounding upfront in him, Humphries and Wallace. Garnett of course will replace some of that, but don't expect him to play more than 28 to 30 minutes, when healthy. Plumlee will be help, but he will be a rookie. If Evans is staying, then it's different.
They also got a lot older. The Nets will likely start Deron Williams, turned 29 this week; Joe Johnson who turns 32 Saturday; Brook Lopez, who's 25; and the two new guys: Kevin Garnett, 37 last month; and Paul Pierce, who turns 36 before the first month of the season ends. That's easily the oldest starting unit in the NBA, just as the Celtics were last year. The bench, unless the Nets can get rid of Jason Terry (and they will try), will be a weird cross section of youth (Tornike Shengelia, Tyshawn Taylor and Plumlee, all between 22 and 23); a couple of mid-career bigs (Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic, aged 27 and 28); and an aging shooter extraordinaire (Terry at age 36 in September.) Is Brooks still at PNY Center in October? He's 24. If not, Evans is 33. Bojan Bogdanovic? Also 24 but now less certain to arrive than he was last week.
They will also be so much more expensive. The starting line-up's combined salary will be $82.4 million. Most of the league's 15-man rosters aren't paid that much! The bench will be cheaper, but Terry makes $5.25 million and whoever they sign with the mini-MLE will get another $3.17 million. Teletovic makes $3.22 million. Then, there's the free agent targets. Kyle Korver? a back-up point guard? How much?
Estimates of the luxury tax? Think serious eight figures every year for the next three, meaning no sign-and-trades, no MLE or BAE, limited flexibility. One positive. They will done with big deals in 2015-16, which means they will avoid the repeater tax.
What about chemistry? Integrating two of the game's greatest players will take some time ... under a rookie coach. Lawrence Frank, who worked with Pierce and Garnett under Doc Rivers, can be helpful. Kidd was twice KG's Olympic teammate and once Terry's NBA title teammate. And how about that plan to go uptempo? "That's out the window," laughed a team insider Wednesday.
In addition to being the NBA's oldest and most expensive roster, the Nets now have the fewest draft choices of any team. Between now and 2019, they have only three first rounders and three second rounders.
Is it worth it? We know how the pundits will see it. Wild spending Prokhorov does it again! What are they thinking? Nets championship contender in 2007! Etc. etc. And we still have to endure Bill Simmons crying jag.
We are not in the prediction business, but overall we think it's an acceptable risk. And oh yeah, who owns the back pages today? Until they start playing the games, we'll enjoy having "The Truth" and "The Ticket" on board.