EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's all new to Paul Pierce, these uncontested looks.
In his 15 seasons serving as the Celtics' offensive anchor, Pierce was always in the opposition's crosshairs. He barely could take a step at times without defenders draped all over him and often faced double-teams. They stuck to him so closely that they probably could've read the wash care instructions stitched on the tag inside his jersey.
So it's no shock that Pierce can barely contain himself as he anticipates the open looks he'll get with the Nets, similar to the ones he's had this preseason. His brain already is working overtime just thinking about it.
"It's been very surprising," he said Saturday. "I think probably why I'm missing a lot of shots is because it's surprising that I'm so open. I'm used to getting a lot of shots contested, so it's an adjustment. But it's going to be great to have these teammates take pressure off me [so] that I could get a lot of wide-open shots."
Pierce's smooth stroke has been off so far, as he has knocked down only 5 of 19 attempts. He's averaging just under five shots per game, which is far from the norm for him, even in the preseason.
Pierce is focused on other aspects of his game and other ways to contribute. He's hitting the glass and playing the role of a distributor, in part because point guards Deron Williams and Tyshawn Taylor are nursing injuries. But Pierce said he'll alter that approach soon. He plans on getting his when the games begin to count Oct. 30.
"I think I'm going to be a lot more aggressive once the regular season starts," said Pierce, who, along with Kevin Garnett, will sit out Wednesday's preseason game against the Celtics. "Right now, I'm trying to get a feel for the offense, trying to get a feel for where my shots are going to come in. But I'm still going to continue to be myself. I'm still going to try to be the aggressor, I'm still going to try to get to the bucket. I'm still going to try to get to the free-throw line.
"So right now, D-Will is out. We have Tyshawn out. So I'm just trying to play that role right now. But my role is definitely going to change when these guys get back."
Shaun Livingston isn't doubting that one bit. With Williams out, Livingston has seen extensive court time with Pierce and the Nets' other three starters, doing his best to find their sweet spots and hit the open man. But there's been times when Pierce has taken more of a passive approach and deferred to others when the ball is swung his way.
"A lot of times, he's looked at me in the games and been like, 'You know what? I've got to be more aggressive getting my shot,' " Livingston said. "He'll get a feel for it. I think he's kind of feeling out playing within the group, but there's going to be times when we need him to be 'The Truth,' you know what I'm saying, instead of Paul. He'll take the temperature as the season goes on."
Livingston was aware of Pierce's natural skills and his seemingly effortless ability to fill up the net on any given night. But there's something else that has caught his eye now that they're wearing the same uniform.
Said Livingston, "What's impressed me most about Paul is his I.Q. of the game. Everybody knows he's a scorer, but he understands the game and he can do a lot of different things from three positions. He's versatile. He can pass it, he can shoot it, he can rebound it. He's a hell of a rebounder.''
"I mean, it's impressive to play with him and continue to learn his game. But he's a championship-caliber player. He's known for knocking down big shots, getting buckets. That's what he does."
But now he can do those things knowing he's not his team's focal point, freeing him up on a squad that's shown superb ball movement with all the offensive cogs they're able to trot out there.