Josh Newman, Field ReporterWith the move to Brooklyn on the horizon as free agency opened last summer, the Nets made sure they would have a competitive product on the floor by committing $313 million in new salaries to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez.
The amount of money tied up, plus the luxury tax bill that came with it, was certainly outrageous, enough to the point where not even Nets General Manager Billy King thought they could pull off something big to improve heading into next season.
The wherewithal of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the diligence of King proved that notion wrong over the last two weeks. On Friday, a hectic free agency period came to an end as the draft night, blockbuster trade that will bring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets from the Boston Celtics was made official.
“Did I think we could pull something like this off? No,” King said via conference call late Friday afternoon.
The seemingly-unlikely signing of free agent small forward Andrei Kirilenko was also announced on Friday, but the Hall of Fame combination of Garnett and Pierce is what has been the buzz of the NBA since it went down on June 27.
With the Celtics facing a rebuild, King said he had gotten close to a deal for Pierce and his $15.3 million salary when he asked Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge about Garnett.
The two continued to talk and make progress when it had finally gotten to the point of asking Garnett, who is owed $23.5 million over the next two seasons, if he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
In the middle of the first round of the NBA Draft, King struck gold.
“I was just banking on the fact we were going to have a pretty good team, that’s what Kevin is all about and that’s how he’s always been,” said King, who noted that Williams and new head coach Jason Kidd made calls to Garnett trying to recruit him on draft night. “I just felt that if we did things the right way and were first class, he would be willing to join us.”
Garnett and Terry each have two years left on their respective contracts, Pierce has one and Kirilenko signed a one-year deal plus a player option beginning at $3.18 million, the team’s entire mini mid-level exception. In other words, with Kirilenko being the youngest of that group at the age of 32, the window is a short one, probably only two years.
That fact was not lost on King, especially during negotiations with Ainge. As part of the deal, the Nets gave up their first-round pick in 2014, 2016 and 2018 in addition to giving the Celtics the option to swap first-round picks in 2017.
A lot of potential undrafted talent went out the door for the chance, however big or small it may be, to win a championship. While it may seem like trading for Garnett and Pierce is a no-brainer, it wasn’t so for King and the front office.
“We had a lot of pause, a lot of hesitation,” King said. “We started looking at the picks and what we would be giving up. We made the decision where we thought we would be at the time of the picks.”
As it stands right now, the Nets are loaded and could legitimately go with a 10-man rotation. Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Lopez will presumably start, while backup point guard Shaun Livingston, Terry, Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche are all candidates for significant minutes.
The depth is certainly there, which leaves two key questions. Can Kidd, with no head coaching experience, lead this suddenly-contending outfit? Secondly, how much do Pierce and Garnett, 36 and 37 years of age, respectively, have left in the tank after looking old and tired in a six-game loss to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs last season?
The easy answer to the second question is that Pierce and Garnett will not be asked to play heavy minutes, or even every game, with a roster this deep, but King took a different route with that question.
“I hope people keep questioning Pierce and KG’s age,” King said adamantly. “The workload will not be as much as it has been in the past and I just enjoy the fact people are questioning them because they’ll go out and prove people wrong.”
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA