Welcome to Brooklyn!
Newest Nets Garnett and Pierce make Downtown arrival Thursday
The waiting if finally over!
At high noon on Thursday at Downtown’s Barclays Center, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will finally be fitted with their black-and-white Nets jerseys, leaving behind the Green and (Larry O’Brien Trophy) Gold championship legacy they established during their halcyon days in Boston.
“Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets,” said Brooklyn Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who is spending upwards of $180 million in salary next season to bring our fair borough its first major pro sports title since the Dodgers vanquished the Yankees in seven memorable games way back in 1955.
“With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved a great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch, and tough to compete against,” added the Russian billionaire.
The Nets stole the headlines at last month’s NBA Draft, which was also held in the team’s state-of-the-art arena on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
Not only did they grab Duke center Mason Plumlee in the opening round of the league’s annual selection extravaganza, but orchestrated a blockbuster deal that brought Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White here from the Celtics in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first-round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018).
Nets general manager Billy King, perhaps citing the perceived lack of toughness that prevented the Nets from advancing past the opening round of the playoffs during their debut season in Brooklyn, believes the trio of Garnett, Pierce and Terry, each of whom as won an NBA title, can give Brooklyn the lift it needs to seriously challenge for the first crown in franchise history.
Terry was a backcourt mate of new Nets coach Jason Kidd during the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA title-winning run in 2011.
“We are excited to welcome Kevin, Paul and Jason to Brooklyn,” said King. “All three players have championship pedigree and possess the veteran qualities that will make us a stronger team.”
Stronger, and more than a bit older.
Garnett, Pierce and Terry bring nearly half a century and well over 3,000 games of NBA experience with them to a team that won 49 games overall, a franchise-record 26 on the road and grabbed the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference a season ago.
They will join All-Star center Brook Lopez, sharpshooter Joe Johnson and two-time Olympic champion point guard Deron Williams in forming one of the league’s most impressive starting fives.
Not to mention a group of reserves that boasts NBA rebounding machine Reggie Evans, and a proven 3-point threat in Terry, along with the likes of backup big man Andray Blatche and newly acquired Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko.
“[Kirilenko] is a true talent with tremendous versatility,” Prokhorov said. “As a fellow countryman, I am especially proud that the best Russian player in the history of the NBA will be wearing a Nets jersey.”
“We are very pleased to add Andrei to our roster,” added King. “He is a proven NBA veteran with a unique skill set, and his addition provides our team with increased frontcourt flexibility.”
While Garnett and Pierce teamed for their championship in 2008, and nearly pulled off another in 2010, advancing to the Finals before falling in seven tough games to the rival Los Angeles Lakers, the Nets are hoping 2013-14 finds them in good health and ready to fervently chase down a second ring.
Prokhorov has made no secret of his desire to bring a title to Brooklyn within the first five years of his ownership.
With the new-look Nets entering season four of that mandate, the maverick owner might want to ask the “basketball gods” to look over his incoming freight of big-name players from Boston, who have a combined age of 107.
Fortunately for Brooklyn, Williams (29), Johnson (32) and Lopez (25) are still very much in the primes of their careers.
The lessons those three will learn from being on the court with battle-tested and proven veterans like Garnett, Pierce and Terry should provide the Nets with the winning edge needed to get through a win-or-go-home Game 7, like the one they lost in heartbreaking fashion to a banged-up Chicago Bulls team in the opening round.
Kidd, a self-acknowledged “rookie” on the bench, should also benefit from having on-the-court coaches to help Brooklyn navigate the grind of an 82-game regular season, as well as what the team is hoping will be a deep run into June come playoff time.
“I think we’re all excited,” Kidd said of the trade. “I think we were all waiting for this day. When you look at management, the pieces they brought in, they’re sending a message that they want to win now. We’re up to that challenge.
“My pitch was to have an opportunity to win a championship again, and being able to not just win a championship but teach these guys what it takes to win. (Brook) Lopez, (Andray) Blatche, (Deron Williams), Joe Johnson – being able to show them what it takes to win.”
For comprehensive coverage of Thursday’s historic press conference at Barlcays, log back on to www.brooklyneagle.com, pick up Friday’s edition of the Brooklyn Eagle or check out our paper’s new sports blog from Eagle sports blogger Rob Abruzzese.