Nets' Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce watch in the fourth...

Nets' Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce watch in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

When official word came from the man himself Sunday that the two sides were going their separate ways, it created more than a twinge of surprise.

Paul Pierce, using his Twitter page as a means to spread the word to his 3.17 million followers, let it be known just after midnight that he was joining the Wizards after only one season with the Nets, tweeting a special shoutout to President Barack Obama and Wizards point guard John Wall: "Obama, J Wall here I come."

And with that, the major player in the Nets' blockbuster trade last summer was gone.

This even though for the better part of the last month-plus, the Nets talked about their desire to re-sign Pierce. Remember, they figured they were in the midst of this two-year championship window.

The Nets could offer him the most money but still talked about wanting to be financially responsible. Ultimately, they refused to overpay him and foil their grand long-term plans: avoiding having to pay the dreaded repeater tax and staying in contention for the potential free-agent crop of 2016.

So instead of matching the two-year, $11-million deal the Wizards agreed to with Pierce, the Nets -- who reportedly didn't even offer him a contract -- let him walk and signaled a change in philosophy in a sense.

They are done spending millions as if they were playing with Monopoly money. Even though they surrendered three first-round picks to acquire Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they weren't about to spend all that money to bring back a player who turns 37 in October and whose skills are in decline.

Apparently, the Nets' hierarchy found reason to pause after nearly $200 million in payroll, luxury tax and amnesty payments bought five playoff wins and a second-round exit. The franchise reportedly lost upward of $144 million last season, and even for billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, that can't sit too well.

Because they're so far over the luxury-tax threshold, if they signed Pierce to a deal worth, say, $5 million, it would have cost the Nets north of $20 million. That'll give you reason to pause, too.

He's just not worth that, and the Nets are doing the responsible thing, even though it might not be the most popular decision after they yielded all those assets.

Sure, Pierce had the team's signature playoff moment, rejecting Kyle Lowry's floater to seal the Nets' Game 7 win at Toronto in the first round.

But saying goodbye to Pierce means hello to the Nets' new way of thinking.

They have about $90 million committed to contracts for next season. Their core three players of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez have the Nets on the hook for $58 million all by themselves.

Looking down the line, once Bojan Bogdanovic's agreement is completed and they sign second-round selection Markel Brown sometime in the next few weeks, the Nets will have eight players under contract in 2015-16. That's provided they pick up Mason Plumlee's $1.4-million option, they decline the $2.02-million team option on Marquis Teague's contract and Lopez exercises his player option in the final year of his deal.

The real relief won't come until two summers from now, when they're scheduled to have Bogdanovic's pact, Williams' final year and the team options of Plumlee and newly acquired Sergey Karasev as the only commitments on the books.

Then they can really reopen those seemingly deep pockets. Perhaps they'll look back on how they wised up this summer and note that it left them in position to get talented, premium players who aren't in the twilight of their careers, a la Pierce and Garnett.

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