He was a player who was going to instill some championship pedigree in a team that lacked mental fortitude.
But there was Paul Pierce standing in the Nets' locker room in the aftermath of their 95-78 loss to the Bulls Wednesday, explaining how it's not that easy for him, or Kevin Garnett, to simply transform everyone's mentality. It's almost like Pierce is resigned to the fact that all the talk goes in one ear and out the other of some of his teammates.
"You can say what you want about individuals and certain people being mentally tough, but it has to be everybody," Pierce said. "I can't speak for everybody all the time. If this was an individual sport, I could speak for myself. Some people respond to adversity different, no matter who's around or who says anything to them."
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement and another subtle sign that the Nets as presently constructed simply aren't good enough. Pierce also suggested that mental toughness isn't easily acquired, that some people are basically pre-programmed with that gene.
"I don't know if it can be taught," he said. "I don't know if you can go to the library and read a book on it. I don't know if you can buy it at a store. If I had the answer where you get that from . . . But I don't know."
After a torrid stretch in his first five games off the bench and an explosive outing against the 76ers last week in a spot start due to Joe Johnson's absence for personal reasons, Pierce has cooled off considerably. He went 1-for-8 from the field and mustered just six points against Chicago, this after going scoreless Monday for the first time since 1999 and getting ejected for a flagrant foul on George Hill because "I was tired of seeing Indiana make layups all night."
Pierce, who was part of an atrocious 4-for-37 shooting display by the Nets' reserves, has hit only one of his last 15 attempts and has misfired on his past four shots beyond the arc.
"I'm just trying to find and get a flow," said Pierce, who added the injury to his right hand that caused him to miss four games still hasn't fully healed, although it's good enough for him to play. "Sometimes the ball is going to come your way. When you're coming off the bench, you're not a primary option and when you sort of get in, you try to kind of force things. You don't get the looks every night that you usually were getting over the years, and I've got to grow accustomed to that. I'm usually the third or fourth option when I'm on the court.
"Minutes over the last few games have been different. I played less minutes last game, less minutes this game. So when you have the inconsistency in the minutes, sometime you have inconsistency in your play."