As I woke up Sunday morning an emotional hot mess, I realized that I wasn't alone. No I am not referring to my insomnia-suffering pregnant wife, but a significant portion of the Brooklyn Nets' fan base. Brooklyn's decision not to resign Paul Pierce to what appeared to be a bargain price of $5.5 million per season is what triggered these feelings of frustration, confusion, and anger amongst many. After all, these are Mikhail Prokhorov's Nets. We don't look at price tags when we go shopping. At least that's been the mentality we've all grown accustomed to. After letting it sink in, the decision to let Pierce walk started to make sense.
The decision not to retain their veteran leader contradicted the philosophy in how the Nets have done business since leaving The Garden State. This wasn't a gradual change. The Nets don't appear willing to spend at will anymore and are preaching fiscal responsibility ... if spending more than $90 million in salary and $33 million in luxury taxes can be seen as responsible. Still, it looks like no more flirtations with Jordan Hill and instant $18 million tax hits.
It is my belief that what upsets many Nets fans was not the decision to let Pierce walk without making an offer, but the trade made with the Boston Celtics a year ago. At the time the Nets felt they were a player or two away from seriously contending for an NBA title. They went all in when they "mortgaged the future" for a chance to add Kevin Garnett and Pierce to the roster. Those two were going to provide the necessary leadership and experience that would elevate Brooklyn into the upper echelon of the league.
It was an enormous risk, yet many, if not most, were thrilled at the time. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20. No one could have foreseen the bad luck the Nets would endure throughout the season in the injury department. Clearly finishing as a sixth seed only to last five games in the second round was not what Billy King and company envisioned when the "Boston heart transplant" became official.
To now switch to a corporate philosophy of being more "financially responsible" makes you wonder why the deal was even made in the first place. From an outsider's perspective, they got caught up in the moment with their "All In" campaign. It's as if no one considered how this deal would shake up in terms of costs for the 2014-15 season and beyond.
Irresponsible? Maybe. In hindsight, it sure looks that way, but once again, a chance to go for it now certainly got fans excited. Now the Nets organization and their fans can only hope that this deal doesn't become the NBA equivalent to the now infamous "Herschel Walker Trade", when the Minnesota Vikings paid the Dallas Cowboys a king's ransom which provided Dallas with the future assets to assemble their dynasty during the 1990s. Walker's tenure with Minnesota was certainly a disappointment and the lopsided deal won't ever be forgotten by football fans.
There are differences, of course. Big ones. The Cowboys received eight picks including the picks that became Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, and Alvin Harper, all of whom won at least two Super Bowls. As of now, all the Celtics have from their trade is James Young, a good player out of Kentucky, Gerald Wallace and his $20 millin contract and Keith Bogans, who the Celtics sent home in mid-season for unprofessional behavior. They will get other picks in 2016 and 2018 and yes the right to swap picks in 2017.
Although it is doubtful that any Nets officials will (publicly) admit that the trade with Boston was a colossal failure, their actions now seem to reflect that sentiment. It's a harsh reality to accept, but perhaps the ownership and management realized that this team with Pierce is not on a championship level. Could they compete in the East? Yes. Could they contend for a title? Probably not.
Like anything else in life, you can't dwell on past mistakes and must remain focused on the future. There is no doubt that the deal was a mistake and will only make the Nets the punch line for jokes by sports pundits and fans for years to come. The key is not to compound any problems, and maybe signing Pierce could've been just that. Did you know that if the Nets had signed Pierce to the exact contract offered by the Washington Wizards, it would have cost the franchise $22M, or about the same salary as LeBron James? Now be honest with yourself, would adding Pierce make the Nets a legitimate contender for the upcoming season?
Yes, Pierce was productive and played a key role in helping the Nets salvage their season and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but he is also turning 37 this year. What happens if Father Time really catches up with him this season? He had his signature moments during the regular and postseasons, but he also had those forgettable ones too. How much of a disaster would it be if the Nets are paying an excess of $20M to a player who struggles to defend his opponent and his scoring production continues to plummet? It was Branch Rickey who famously said, "Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late."
Obviously there was no trade involved with Pierce's departure from Brooklyn. Had they resigned him where would he play? He did look old and slow while manning the small forward position during the first half of the season. Would it be ideal to play him alongside Brook Lopez as a stretch four, and if so who's rebounding? Can't the Nets get the same 13 point, 5 rebound production from Andrei Kirilenko and/or Mirza Teletovic?
I totally get that it's not our money and Mikhail Prokhorov's bank account seems unlimited, but I am willing to bet that you don't become one of the wealthiest men in the world by overspending for depreciating assets. As much as he wants to win, owning a team is still a business and I doubt that he or any other owner would be accepting of losing substantial money. No one can accuse him of being cheap as he spent upwards of $190M this past year, something the sports world hadn't seen since George Steinbrenner. The difference is the Yankees made a profit, whereas the Nets recently lost $144M according to a report in Grantland and confirmed by NetsDaily.
Trust me when I say that I am just as much disappointed that this deal didn't work out and the Nets have appeared to have dug themselves a hole in terms of the future. It may seem that they opted for Jarrett Jack over Pierce, but perhaps it was more about obtaining a young asset in Sergey Karasev. They have given away a lot in recent deals, so recouping some youth seems to be a top priority now and will hopefully help them retool for the future.
The trade ended up as a bust and although it's not easy, it's time to turn the page. As a fan, I appreciate the efforts made in recent years but I respect the change in direction. Successful organizations don't operate the way the Nets have in recent years. Hopefully the Nets have learned their lesson and will make more sound, responsible decisions moving forward.
Tracking the Brooklyn haul - Chris Forsberg - ESPN Boston