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Paul Pierce criticizes Deron Williams, Nets

Paul Pierce #34 of the Washington Wizards passes

Paul Pierce #34 of the Washington Wizards passes the ball against Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Friday, April 10, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Paul Pierce unloaded on the Nets, giving them plenty more to think about leading into Wednesday night's regular-season finale with a playoff berth on the line.

The Nets are in ninth place, a game behind the Pacers, who defeated the Wizards in two overtimes Tuesday night. To make the playoffs, the Nets must beat Orlando at Barclays Center and hope the Grizzlies -- the team that didn't renew Lionel Hollins' contract in 2013 -- upend the visiting Pacers in a later start. The Nets own the tiebreaker because they won the season series.

Missing the postseason would be a bitter disappointment for the Nets, who have the NBA's highest payroll, especially after Pierce barbecued them Tuesday in a story on

Pierce questioned Deron Williams' leadership, the Nets' practice habits last season and said he doesn't believe the franchise appreciated Kevin Garnett. He made it clear he's enjoying his time with the Wizards.

"I'm much happier,'' Pierce said. "It was a tough situation last year. Horrible, really.

"It was just the guys' attitudes there. It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. I was saying, 'What's this?' Kevin and I had to pick them up every day in practice.

"If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in.''

Pierce and Garnett cost the Nets five players, three first-round draft picks and the right to swap first-round picks in 2017. General manager Billy King thought Garnett and Pierce would give them the mental toughness they lacked in their first season in Brooklyn, when they won 49 games but lost in the first round to the Bulls.

The Nets made the second round when Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry's finger roll as time expired in Game 7. But they lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five. Williams infamously failed to score in a Game 2 loss, missing nine shots.

"Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,'' Pierce said. "But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that. I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York. I think it really affected him.''

Pierce said the roster's makeup, including Joe Johnson's quiet nature, forced him and Garnett to take more active roles than they anticipated. "There's a lot of secondary guys on that team,'' he said. "KG and I went there looking at them as the main guys who would push us, because we were advancing in years. But we ended up doing all the pushing.''

Despite all that, Pierce still remained open to returning.

Garnett was traded to the Timberwolves on Feb. 19 and has missed 23 of 28 games since.

"I would have stayed in Brooklyn because of Kevin,'' Pierce said. "I told him, 'I don't really like this situation but I would never leave you if you want me to stay.' But they decided not to re-sign me, so I never had to make a choice. I would never have left Kevin like that.''

New York Sports