Paul Pierce Gone: A Rudderless Organization

Paul Pierce is gone. And the reason he is gone, based on multiple reports, is clear. According to David Aldridge, Pierce preferred becoming a Net or Clipper, but neither option materialized, so he became a Wizard. Apparently the Nets did not want Pierce anymore, in their choice to be more frugal given what was an outrageously expensive roster. By all accounts he wanted to be here, and he’s gone because the Nets did not want him: not the other way around.

My problem is pretty simple. I know the CBA. I understand that with the tax rules the way they are, the tax can become so prohibitive it may as well be a hard cap. I understand that if you go over it regularly, you become a repeater tax team, only spiking the penalties. Thereby, the spending of last season was unsustainable, as a long term thing. I have looked at the CBA, and I do not make any presumptions about the Nets, their wallets, or what they can or should do with their money, without that basis.

With that, I will say this: this decision from the Nets to deliberately watch Pierce walk out the door is ridiculous, and shows that the Nets do not have a plan.

The Nets in trading for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, traded away three first round draft picks. THREE. First round picks are cheap. You have the player for years. You get the opportunity to grow and develop a young player, making likely between $900,00 and $2.5 million, and if he’s good, you get more on court value than that. The Nets dealt that for Paul Pierce’s $15.3 million salary. For Kevin Garnett’s $12 million salary — and in doing it VOLUNTARILY PICKED UP his $12 million option for 2014-2015. For Terry’s $5.6 million salary coming off a season in which he was nowhere near worth that — just to get the deal done.

Here’s the thing: the spending never stopped. They traded nonguranteed deals for Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor to get Marquis Teague, whose guaranteed for this year. They broke Terry and Reggie Evans’ smaller deals into $8,697,500 in salary for Marcus Thornton.

Oh, they did not even stop there. Likely staring at some cap space next offseason given the rising cap, the Nets could have watched Thornton roll off their books next summer. They chose not to, and VOLUNTARILY traded Thornton for Jarrett Jack’s toxic contract, putting $6,300,000 on their books next year. That’s no small commitment when you have Deron and Joe Johnson on your team: we’re talking about, at best, a third guard here.

These are not the types of moves teams make when they’re cutting costs. Look at the deals around the league. Teams are hoarding first round picks. If you want to keep costs manageable, you need the ability to add cheap talent to your team. The best way to do that is the draft. Teams looking to cut costs don’t trade picks: they amass them. Teams looking to cut costs don’t deal toxic contracts on 1 year deals for toxic contracts on 2 year deals which eat more salary: they keep the guy rolling off the books.

Yet, here the Nets are, pitching to all of us that they have to cut their costs. Sure, the team was cost prohibitive. But here’s the thing. If you trade for Paul Pierce, and you KNOW he’s becoming a free agent, you KNOW you’re going to have to pay him to keep him. According to sources, Pierce wanted $9-10 million per year, and now is playing for about $5.5 million per year in Washington. That’s a commitment you KNOW you’re going to have to make when you do the deal, especially when you threw first rounders in the deal.

Brooklynites, think of it this way. You’re in sheepshead bay, heading to Mill Basin. You get on the highway by exit 8, headed east. There’s a ton of traffic, so you get off at exit 9, Knapp Street: “I’m taking the streets!” Then you’re taking the streets and say “well I can’t take the streets, there’s red lights!”

Isn’t that ridiculous! You know when you get off the highway and take the streets, that there will be redlights: that’s how streets work. Maybe you should’ve thought about that when exiting the highway.

That’s the Nets here. If it’s too cost prohibitive to pay Paul and Kevin beyond one year, when you’re already paying Deron Brook and Joe, that’s understandable. If that’s the case, you don’t do the deal. The Nets made a BIG trade here. Trading three first round picks, for three players like this is a BIG deal. You don’t make a franchise altering, cap and balance sheet altering transaction like this, and ask questions later!

The Nets apparently, did.

That is why I am incredibly incensed at the choice not to retain Paul Pierce. I understand the financial ramifications: the Nets clearly do now, but they SHOULD HAVE when they made the deal. That they would need to pay Paul $9 million or so (let’s use the number his agent leaked) to keep him: that’s got to be known when you make the deal, not discovered a year later. Just like when you’re on the highway, you know that if you take the streets, you’ll hit red lights. Or that if you get a sandwich with turkey mayo cheese and nothing else, that your sandwich won’t have ham on it. This is basic logic.

I supported the Boston deal but in light of this, it made absolutely no sense. If you’re going to need to dial spending back, to keep costs under control, you simply do not make the deal. You decide the draft picks are too important, and either push for getting the deal done without them (or with maybe just one of them), or just don’t deal at all. Instead, the Nets are like that 13 year old girl who opens a credit card, buys Macy’s, and flips out when she gets a big bill. “I thought the card was paying”!

To add insult to injury, Paul Pierce makes less money over the next two seasons than Jarrett Jack does. The Nets could have simply kept Pierce, not done the Jack deal, signed a point guard for the league minimum as their backup — Steve Blake got $2.1 per so the Nets could have gotten someone – and put a bow on the offseason.

I’ve said it and will say it again. My issue is not the general fact of the Nets choosing to cut costs: they probably need to. It’s that you don’t deal first round picks for players you know you can’t keep down the road due to costs, and that cost cutting franchises don’t deal 1 year bad deals for 2 year bad deals. It shows a total lack of direction.

The Nets complain they have no identity, but this only makes finding an identity harder.

This just calls into question: why was the deal made? Was it all a headline grab. Was it a all in push for one season knowing they’d be unable to keep it together. Everything is called into question.

All along, I thought the plan was to spend, try to remain competitive through 2016, and then use that established winning culture, together with the lure of New York City, to reel in free agents with their cap room — or at least remake the roster. That’s a kind of crazy plan, yes: but a plan is a plan, at least.

Right now, there apparently is no plan. Well, maybe there is: taking lame jabs at the Knicks about having a practice facility in the city.

And on that note, maybe it’s time to stop worrying about the Knicks. Everyone loves to say that the organizations are competitors, and I understand that. There’s only a certain number of people in New York. Both want to maximize how many they get. So it leads to a political game between the franchises.

That needs to stop. Worrying about the Knicks, or anyone else, is getting tired. Did the Nets make this deal because the Knicks won a playoff series, so the Nets felt they had to keep pace, or win a headline, or something? Who knows? But that practice facility jab doesn’t sit right with me.

Maybe the Nets think that’s how they have to run their business. But you know what happens to the shiny new restaurant with cool promotions and cool giveaways to the customers? It goes under, because it’s unsustainable.

There is only one way to truly win market share, to win over the fanbase: to win, and win on a regular basis. This is New York City: people care what your team is doing. If you win, people come to the games. People buy tickets. People believe you know what you’re doing. People may even choose to watch you over the other team, because people like to watch teams that win. The Nets need to worry about that, not the other stuff.

Maybe some will say I am being too harsh. But if you have followed me and read my work, you know that I will always defend this team … when my heart is in it. I defended the Boston trade when it was made. I defended it during 10-21, during 44-38, during round 2 against Miami. During the offseason. I defend Deron: yes, I know he needs to play better, but I said the Nets shouldn’t deal him, believe he can get back to the Deron he was. I defended Billy many a time as well, and Jason Kidd as well. When people have called for their jobs, I have always been staunch in my rebuke.

I can’t defend this. While I will note that this may not be Billy’s fault, but could be ownership, I cannot defend how little sense this makes.

All I want is a franchise that cares about doing what it believes is in the best interests of building a winner, in the short or long term, based on the situation in front of them (and what they know of their finances). And I always thought I had that. I guess I don’t.

Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov just got off at the Knapp street exit. They’re taking the streets because the highway has traffic. And they can’t believe they’re stuck at a red light.

And that’s the Paul Pierce.

 

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