If Paul Pierce was out to prove why his nickname is “The Truth,” mission accomplished.
Speaking with ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan in an article published Tuesday, the 37-year-old Pierce opened up on playing fewer minutes on a playoff team with young stars (he plays less than 27 minutes per game with the Washington Wizards), what he’s learned since his first playoff series, and the disaster that was his time in Brooklyn.
And it’s in speaking about his Nets tenure where the truth hurts most … for Deron Williams, at least.
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"I’m much happier," he told MacMullan, comparing his time in Washington despite the reduced playing time to his one season in Brooklyn in 2013-14. “It was a tough situation (in Brooklyn) 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 looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) 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. We kept them going each and every day."
Garnett moved to Brooklyn from Boston with Pierce, the two of them part of a nine-player trade that also involved three draft picks. The idea was uniting much of the core of the Celtics’ most recent title-winning team with the likes of Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez to perhaps bring the Nets a championship with their new Russian tycoon owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) and their new city and shiny arena (Barclays Center).
Instead, the Nets finished last season 44-38, earning the sixth seed in the playoffs, and lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five games in the second round.
The failure to go further in the playoffs? Pierce puts it at the feet of the guys who were already in Brooklyn.
"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, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him."
As for Johnson?
"Joe is quiet. He doesn’t want much attention. He doesn’t say much.
"There’s a lot of secondary guys on that team. 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."
Pierce also took the time to MacMullan to clear the air about his relationship with the one part of that Celtics core that did not go to Brooklyn … the one who instead fled to Miami the season prior and helped bounce Pierce and Garnett in last year’s postseason.
According to the story, Pierce will still send group texts to former Boston teammates like Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis, as well as then-coach Doc Rivers, but he hasn’t had any communication with Ray Allen since the all-time 3-point king left for Miami to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2012.
"It was a weird relationship," Pierce said of his time with Allen. "We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That’s just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we’d be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn’t show up. We’d go to his charity events but Ray wouldn’t show up to somebody else’s.
"I called him on it. I said, ‘Man, Ray, we support all your stuff but when we ask you, you don’t come to ours.’ I remember when [Rajon] Rondo re-signed with Boston, we had a little dinner at a restaurant and Ray didn’t show up.
"I know Ray probably didn’t like Rondo that much, but it wasn’t a fact of not liking somebody. You don’t have to like everybody you play with — it’s a matter of showing support.
"Rondo probably didn’t like Ray either, but he came to Ray’s functions to show, ‘Hey, we’re together in this.’"
As for now, Pierce is focused on another playoff run, and another season. He says next season will be his last, but that doesn’t mean the tank is almost empty. Either in his game or his notorious trash talk.
Like this doozy:
"I always say I wish I was in my prime matching up against LeBron," said Pierce, grinning. "Let’s see how many championships he would have won then."