Billy King isn't bidding on a prize by guessing a random number and blurting it out. But there's no doubt the Nets general manager is hoping his price is right to re-sign Paul Pierce.
Pierce, 36, reportedly is drawing interest from several teams, including the Clippers, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Bulls and Rockets. The Nets never have wavered from their desire to keep Pierce, because they're pleased with the way he helped lead the team and aided in reshaping the franchise's culture.
Because they have his Bird rights, the Nets can back up the Brinks truck for Pierce if they want. However, after boasting a league-record payroll of nearly $200 million this past season, owner Mikhail Prokhorov apparently isn't about to bust open his piggy bank unnecessarily. The Nets are ping-ponging proposals with agent Jeff Schwartz as they attempt to bring back Pierce.
"We are in the process,'' King said Thursday on "The Michael Kay Show'' on ESPN New York radio. "We want the number we want to get to. I think they know the number they want to get to, and we are just trying to get to the point where we are all comfortable in what we are trying to accomplish.
"It's just a negotiation process. We have the ability to pay him more than anybody else, but we are going to be a little bit more financially responsible at this time.''
King shot down a report that the Nets were in discussions with the Clippers about a potential sign-and-trade involving Pierce. The Clippers reportedly wanted to package Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Jared Dudley in exchange for Pierce, and King said it wasn't an idea hatched by the Nets.
"They made a call and inquired,'' King said, "but there's nothing at this point that makes sense for us.''
Free agency has stalled out of the gate these first three days, in part, King believes, because the market is waiting until Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James decide their destinations.
"I just wish it gets over with so this free agency gets moving forward,'' King said.
Should Pierce decide to sign elsewhere, detractors will poke holes in the Nets' decision to part with three future first-round picks to acquire Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics a year ago.
King repeatedly has said that if that were to happen, he'd leave it to the armchair quarterbacks to evaluate the trade. He also wasn't ready to say it wasn't worth it if Pierce bolts after only one season with the Nets.
"I think you've got to look at each season,'' King said. "I think last season, we had aspirations. We didn't reach some of our goals, but I think from where we came to get to, it was a good accomplishment.
"And then if Paul were not to come back and we were to lose him, we've got to re-evaluate our team and see how we go. Let's have this conversation next July and see how we can go, because I think you can't look back and say, 'Oh, I should've did this or that.'
"And if it's a failure, you've got to build and continue to go forward.''