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GM Billy King refutes Paul Pierce's statement that Nets are cutting back

Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King speaks during

Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King speaks during a news conference at the Barclays Center on July 18, 2013. Credit: AP

Paul Pierce's recollection of the Nets' thinking this offseason isn't exactly the truth, according to general manager Billy King.

In an interview with NBA.com this week, Pierce spoke extensively for the first time about why he didn't re-sign with the Nets and joined the Wizards, indicating that the Nets' vision had changed. He inked a two-year, $10-million deal, with the second year a player option.

He said the Nets believed they were moving in a different direction after being all-in on a championship last season. Pierce said they wanted to reduce payroll and weren't going to be a contender this season.

King disputed that.

"What he was told and what I said is not the [same],'' King said before the Nets opened their preseason with a 111-94 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. "But the great thing is, I respect Paul, I'm happy he's still playing. I'm happy he played and did well for us last year. But he's with the Wizards now and we are here.

"So our goal is to still try to win a championship. We are not taking any steps back.''

That's not the way Pierce explained things in outlining his decision-making process.

"Brooklyn's . . . a franchise that's going in a different direction,'' he told NBA.com. "Right now, they're kind of in the middle. And I really didn't want to be in the middle. I didn't know if they wanted to do a sign-and-trade. I had to make my own destiny. I couldn't put it in the faith of somebody else. And that's when I was like, 'I'm coming here.' ''

Pierce said the Nets didn't offer him a contract, which technically is true. His representatives initially asked for a two-year, $24-million deal, and the Nets didn't think it was in their best interests to meet that price. With Pierce's camp confident they could get that number elsewhere, King reiterated the Nets had moved on when Pierce's reps doubled back to gauge if the Nets still had any interest.

Re-signing Pierce would have created a logjam at power forward and cost a lot of extra pennies on the dollar, given their salary-cap situation. Last season they had a league record of nearly $200 million in salary and luxury taxes, and their payroll of $94 million still tops the NBA.

Even so, after letting Pierce walk and with owner Mikhail Prokhorov negotiating a potential "combination of assets'' with Guggenheim Partners, some are wondering if the "championship or bust" edict of the Russian billionaire has been altered. Not at all, according to King, who said he still has the green light to make an expensive move if it will benefit the team.

"I think we are spending pretty good right now,'' King said. "Last year, every story line was 'Record levels, record levels.' So I don't think anything's changed in his mind-set.

" . . . We have some younger guys like Mason Plumlee who are under rookie contracts, and that helps your payroll. But he hasn't wavered in pursuit of what he wants."

New York Sports