WASHINGTON - Warm-up jacket covering up the bulk of his black No. 34 jersey and chewing gum, Paul Pierce slowly made his way from the Nets' locker room to the Verizon Center court.
Pierce took a seat on one of the plush chairs on the visitors bench, his eyes seemingly in a daydream-like trance as he watched a few teammates hoist warm-up shots. Andray Blatche, ever the class clown, grabbed a seat next to Pierce and muttered a few words, leading to a hearty chuckle between the two and erasing that spacy, reflective look Pierce has etched on his face.
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Pierce hadn't worn any other uniform than Celtics green since entering the league out of Kansas in 1998, so things were probably a little weird for him at first as the Nets were readying to tip off their preseason against the Wizards Tuesday night. But he insists he wasn't caught up in the moment one bit. "Um, I honestly didn't even think about it," Pierce said following the Nets' 116-106 overtime victory. "I've been part of the Brooklyn Nets. We've been practicing. I mean, I didn't think about it."
But Pierce likely will have a lot to think about after the way the Nets looked in their first foray as a unit. Crisp ball movement, good floor spacing and bench camaraderie were prevalent throughout, leaving them encouraged.
This one wasn't really about the numbers, particularly with the Nets missing Deron Williams (ankle) and coach Jason Kidd electing to play his starters for just 121/2 minutes. It was the Nets' initial opportunity to see how this all fits together, the first part of a lengthy process that has no clear-cut timetable on just when they'll all mesh.
"I think that's what everyone's been waiting for all summer," said Brook Lopez, who was a force inside with 15 points and 6-for-7 shooting. "So to finally have today come, everyone was excited and ready to get out there. I thought for the first game, it was pretty good."
Kevin Garnett's leadership was on display, though not always on the court. During timeouts and breaks in the action, he'd sometimes huddle everyone together and bark instructions while also boosting the morale. "One of the cultures we are going to bring here is we are all for each other and you give yourself up for the betterment of this team," Garnett said. "You root for the next guy as much as he's rooting for you, and that's what it is. So if a guy is on the ground, we are getting them up. We are creating something here, so we are going to keep continuing to carry this over."
Kidd didn't have his top assistant Lawrence Frank on the bench with him, as Frank didn't make the trip due to personal reasons. But Kidd's apparently been brushing up on his dry erase board game. He drew up a play in one timeout during the second quarter that led to an easy two-handed dunk by Brook Lopez off a Shaun Livingston assist.
Still, it's apparently going to take a while for Garnett to get used to this whole Kidd being a coach thing.
"It was weird. I'll be honest, dog," Garnett said. "Seeing him in his little tight suit and drawing up plays. It was good, though. It was good. We are trying to be whatever J. needs us to be on here. I'm glad we were able to get a win for him tonight and better yet, get better today. I thought we got better today."
Kidd sure liked what he saw, particularly from his first unit.
"Everybody was communicating," Kidd said. "It was like we'd been together a little bit longer than we have. But everybody is trying to do the right thing. Brook looked great on the inside and we had some great looks around the perimeter that we normally would make. But we'll live with the shots that we're getting."