Moke Hamilton, NBA AnalystWhen a star-studded roster is assembled and a starting lineup accounts for almost $80 million, headlines are highjacked and wins in November and December are expected. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that future Hall-of-Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett brushed off competing with the New York Knicks for the Atlantic Division title in favor of focusing on the entire NBA for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Pierce and Garnett told the throngs of reporters that showed up at the Barclays Center for the club’s media day that the Atlantic Division title is meaningless; their sights are set on something much bigger. But it wasn’t until Garnett got to the podium, that he hammered the point home. He wasn’t one sentence into his first conference of the year before he uttered the magic R-word: Ring.
“I’m here to get another ring,” he said. “That’s the reason why I came to Brooklyn.”
He paused and raised his eyebrows. For a moment, I saw the intensity we witness on the basketball court come out, as he repeated for emphasis.
“That’s the only reason,” he said.
For all the talk about his aforementioned intensity, I was surprised at how mild-mannered Garnett came across. But it quickly became clear to me why he’s a master of the game both on and off the court. Despite being peppered with questions, Garnett deflected many with ease, not getting caught up petty disagreements or he-said, he-said arguments that have dominated the New York basketball scene for months. His sights are set much, much higher.
The Truth Speaks It: Pierce was level-headed and honest, including what he thinks is important to this team.
When asked if it felt good to have a team that could legitimately challenge the Heat, Pierce immediately corrected the question.
“Our goal is to win a championship. Obviously, if the Heat is in our way, we are going to have to see them,” Pierce said. “But ultimately, our goal is a championship.”
Between Pierce and Garnett, the words “championship” and “ring” were uttered at least a dozen times. What was not, from either player, was a desire to merely be the best team in the NBA’s Atlantic Division or in New York City. That dismissal of the Atlantic is why some, including myself, have chosen the Knicks to repeat as division champions. But the Nets believe that if they arrive to the playoffs healthy, they can win the ultimate prize.
“Truthfully, it’s not that important to me,” Pierce said, when asked about the prospect of winning the division. “I don’t even want to see an Atlantic Division banner put up if we win it. I don’t even know how many Atlantic Division championships we won in Boston, I don’t remember getting a hat, a t-shirt, a call. I mean, you don’t get anything for it.
“The expectations have grown here in Brooklyn. It’s no longer the New Jersey Nets, where it was ‘Hopefully, we can win the division.’ Now, it’s the Brooklyn Nets with championship aspirations.”
Obviously, Pierce’s goal is simply to reach mid-June after ascending to the top of the NBA mountain. As the Nets board their flight to head down to North Carolina for training camp, that journey is officially underway.
The Youth and More: Tyshawn Taylor called himself “the youth” of the team, and believes that he has a great opportunity to learn from some of the best players this league has seen over the past 15 years. I got a chance to sit down with Taylor and speak to him at length about how he fits into this club. More on that later this week…
Andrei Kirilenko believes he can be one of the top front court defenders in the league. The under-the-radar star, Kirilenko should be relied on to be the answer to the league’s best all season long…
Alan Anderson could not hide his excitement when asked why he chose Brooklyn. AA also gushed about KG’s passionate play, even when it doesn’t count: “How he plays in the game is how you see him at practice…”
For more of Hamilton’s NBA coverage all season long, follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton