Looking forward to helping new-look Nets capture first NBA title
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After 15 seasons in Boston, 10 All-Star Game appearances as a Celtic, two NBA Finals berths and an historic championship run in 2008, it would be hard to blame Paul Pierce for having a touch of homesickness as he embarks on this new phase of his Hall of Fame-bound career in Brooklyn.
After all, Pierce will eventually have his No. 34 hung from the rafters at Boston's TD Garden, where he captured NBA Finals MVP honors while helping the Celtics grab their record 17th title, and came within a single victory of repeating the feat in 2010.
So it wasn't the least bit surprising to see Pierce appear slightly less than thrilled on the dais last month at Barclays Center when the Nets introduced him, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry as the three newest members of our borough's first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.
"It's really starting to sink in as we speak," a noticeably subdued Pierce intimated back in mid-July. "I'm no longer a Boston Celtic. I'm a Brooklyn Net."
Last Thursday afternoon during a meet-and-greet with local fans to promote Sprint's 4G LTE launch in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Pierce finally appeared ready to fully embrace his new role as one of the driving forces behind the Nets' heated pursuit of Title I on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
The player dubbed "The Truth" by Shaquille O'Neal for his willingness to answer the call under the most stressful on-the-court situations, is looking forward to helping Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez learn what it's like to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy come next season.
"I’m looking forward to getting started in September, getting acclimated to the new surroundings and my new teammates," noted Pierce, who also revealed that he was still learning how to avert major NYC traffic jams via his Twitter page earlier this month.
Those high-priced, well-decorated "pieces", which also include Garnett, Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, are currently being hailed as the "next big thing" in the race for the Eastern Conference crown.
Three-time defending champion Miami, East River rival New York, last season's first-round playoff foe Chicago and young, upstart Indiana will be primed to block the Nets' path to history come Oct. 30, when Brooklyn kicks off the campaign in Cleveland.
But with Pierce leading the way, both with his scoring touch and battle-tested basketball acumen, the Nets now boast one of the sport's top go-to shooters in the clutch.
One of only three Celtics ever to amass 20,000 points in a Boston uniform (Larry Bird and John Havlicek being the other two), Pierce is eager to start attacking some of the Nets' single-season records during his Downtown relocation.
"It’s a new building, new owners, and a new attitude," Pierce said after playing several rounds of S-P-R-I-N-T (a.ka. H-O-R-S-E) with Nets fans at Basketball City. "The pieces are there in the locker room. I want to be part of starting a legacy."
Despite his admitted struggles with saying goodbye to his basketball home in Boston, Pierce has already played an instrumental role in helping the Nets form their version of "The Dream Team".
He convinced long-time teammate Garnett to wave his no-trade clause and come to Brooklyn, along with Terry, forming a solid core group of experienced, championship-caliber players for rookie coach Jason Kidd to have at his disposal.
"I called Kevin and asked him what he thought about coming to Brooklyn, he immediately said, ‘Well, what pieces are they going to give up? Who is going to be left? Is it going to be possible for us to win a championship?’" Pierce revealed. "He was excited when I talked to him after warming him up, just to have the opportunity to come and win a championship and be alongside a young prospect like Brook Lopez, who he can try to take to the next level. And once I warmed him up to that, he was all in for it.”
Pierce also hinted that he's not looking to play the diva on this star-studded roster, but willing to simply fill his role in helping the Nets build on their 49-win campaign of a season ago.
"We're championship driven," Pierce said last month. "We've made a lot of money in our careers. won a lot of awards. At this point right now, we're all about winning a championship. We want to be one of those teams that can compete for the championship."
A good head start to the pursuit of that championship would be grabbing the Atlantic Division title, something the Nets fell just shy of last season as the Knicks held on to the top spot and the accompanying No. 2 seed in the East playoffs.
Pierce, Garnett and Terry were eliminated by New York in the opening round of the postseason last year in six games, and their well-documented rivalry with the Knicks as members of the Celtics figures to carry over, and perhaps even be magnified during their stay in Brooklyn.
"[Knicks-Nets] will be the best rivalry in sports this year," Pierce insisted Thursday, pointing to the teams' four regular-season dates, and a potential postseason showdown, as calendar-marking events.
If there was any doubt regarding Pierce's committment to his new team, and new locale, one need only listen to what his goals were for next offseason.
"Come June or July, I want to be on beach somewhere looking back on a great year and a championship season," he said.