When the Nets officially reconvene at the end of the week to begin preparations for their third season in Brooklyn, the vocal leader who wore the black-and-white No. 34 jersey last season will be a memory.
Paul Pierce is gone, having signed a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million with the Wizards in his first crack at unrestricted free agency. By electing to chase a championship inside the Beltway, he became a one-and-done with the Nets, who had the ability to pay him more than any other suitor because they possessed his Bird rights.
However, given their salary-cap situation, re-signing Pierce, 36, would have cost extra because they're over the luxury-tax threshold. That, paired with what general manager Billy King calls a "logjam" at power forward -- the position Pierce likely would have played for the Nets this season -- is why they passed on bringing him back.
King indicated in June that he wanted to re-sign Pierce.
"That was the plan of attack," King said Monday at an NBA Cares event on Staten Island. "And I think as we started negotiations, with the numbers that they asked for, I thought at one point he was definitely leaving. You start switching gears because you start hearing that he's going to end up in another place, so you have to start preparing."
King said Pierce's representatives circled back to the Nets, but they already had plans to retool the roster in other ways, operating under the notion that Pierce's bags were packed.
"It was his first time ever being a free agent, and so I think he was exploring all his options," King said. "I thought that there were a lot of teams that had put offers on the table or were talking to him. I really thought that he was going to end up someplace else. I don't know who, but it was one [free agent] player signed and things quickly changed. We had already started preparing that he was already not going to be back."
Losing Pierce and getting nothing tangible in return -- after yielding three first-round picks to bring him and Kevin Garnett from Boston -- provided detractors of the 2013 draft-day trade with more fodder. But King said he couldn't care less.
"We do deals, and then you make them, and you look back and learn, but then you move forward," he said. "So I can't look back and say I wish I would've done that and didn't do that."
King also said he wasn't about to green-light a sign-and-trade just so he could receive some compensation for Pierce.
"I would've looked at a sign-and-trade if there was a player that we were getting back that made sense for us," King said. "I didn't want to do a sign-and-trade just to do one, because I think if you are getting back a player that you don't want, it's just adding another player that you are paying that doesn't fit."