NEW YORK — Paul Pierce believes his new team is primed to make a run at the Eastern Conference title, although the veteran small forward has a bigger goal in mind for the Brooklyn Nets: capturing the NBA championship.
“I think we’re going to be right up there with the best of them,” Pierce said Thursday.
“Obviously I would’ve loved to have finished my career in Boston, but that day and age is finally over with. My ultimate drive is winning a championship.”
Pierce was introduced in front of a large media contingent along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry at the Barclays Center. Garnett, Pierce and Terry were obtained in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics.
Free-agent signee Andrei Kirilenko could not attend because of personal obligations overseas, Nets general manager Billy King said.
The Nets-New York Knicks rivalry is obviously on everyone’s minds as well — although all the players responded no when asked their opinion on who is No. 1 in the city.
“I think we’re talking about a championship, so it doesn’t matter if it’s Miami, Chicago, Indiana, it’s New York, too,” first-year coach Jason Kidd said. “It is a nice rivalry here between the two of us, and hopefully we can get the better of them this year, but the big picture is that championship trophy, and that’s why we’re up here. The gold trophy is what we’re here for.”
King, who orchestrated the trade, which sent Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries ($12 million expiring), MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans (sign-and-trade), Kris Joseph (waived), three future first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap firsts in 2017 to Boston, hopes critics continue to doubt Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 35. King believes the veteran duo will prove their critics wrong.
The Nets had to persuade Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to complete the deal. They also had to guarantee his full $12 million salary for 2014-15, according to a league source.
“Obviously having Jet [Terry] and Paul with me was a really, really really big issue,” Garnett said. “You want to be in a position where you’re comfortable. I don’t know anyone that loves change, but changes has to happen for things to get better.”
Their projected starting five — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez — has combined to go to 35 All-Star Games.
Brooklyn’s bench is expected to be extremely deep and will feature Shaun Livingston, Terry, Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans. Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee could also figure in the rotation.
A league source said the team’s payroll for next season is around $101 million, while its projected luxury-tax bill is around $83 million. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a willing and motivated spender because he’s looking to fulfill his five-year championship plan, which has now been reduced to two.
The Nets have sold more than $3 million in full season tickets since the official announcement that Garnett, Pierce, Kirilenko and Terry were joining the team and are 800 full season-ticket plans shy of reaching their 13,000 full season-ticket cap.
The Nets also acquired D.J. White in the trade, but they waived him Thursday. White had a non-guaranteed contract, and the Nets had to make a decision on him by Aug. 1.
Garnett, Pierce and Terry were all featured in a photo in their Nets jerseys on the Barclays Center giant video screen.
When he walked onto the stage, Garnett clapped his hands and gave a salute to the media and those in attendance. He said, “‘Sup Brooklyn! Yeah!”
The Nets expected around 150 media members at Thursday’s news conference. Eighty-five attended Kidd’s news conference.
The trio said the biggest challenge they will face going into the season is building chemistry.
“We’ve got the pieces to contend for a championship, and that’s our goal,” King said. “This is a great day for Brooklyn, for basketball and for the organization.”
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com