Forget that an Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Brooklyn Nets would give the Washington Wizards home court advantage. Look past the better record against the Nets (2-2) than the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks (1-3). Those that appreciate trash talk and the fine art of trolling want the Wizards against the Nets in round two, and the Paul Pierce connection is the reason.
During the same interview in which he questioned if the Toronto Raptors had the "It" factor, Pierce also took shots at his former team. After fifteen seasons in Boston, the future Hall of Fame forward was traded to Brooklyn before the 2013-14 season along with Kevin Garnett.
"I'm much happier,'' Pierce said of being with the Wizards. "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. ...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.'' Pierce left the Nets and signed with the Wizards in July.
While the Raptors folded under the weight of Pierce's knock, the Nets have bonded, especially around point guard Deron Williams, who received the brunt of Pierce's criticism.
"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. ..."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.''
The eighth-seeded Nets have won two straight games to tie No. 1 Atlanta in their first round series. From The Brooklyn Game following the Nets overtime victory Monday night in Game 4:
No Nets player has endured more criticism... from fans, media members, and even former teammate Paul Pierce, who questioned Williams’s leadership and willingness to improve. The Nets rallied around Williams in the past two days, with public support from multiple teammates and coach Lionel Hollins. “I thought it was a huge, huge step in unity for our ball club,” Hollins added.
At least one member of the Nets, Jarrett Jack, was surprised by Pierce’s comments. “Especially about something that’s in the past,” Jack said. “It’s over and done with. You know what I mean? If you had something you wanted to say or speak up on, you should’ve did it when you was in the locker room with him. And doing it publicly, I thought that was –”
“I don’t know. I ain’t gonna say it’s in poor taste, because I think Paul is professional, he probably just answered the question. But I probably wouldn’t have did it in that fashion.”
Williams, who was once in the running for the unofficial title of the best point guard in the NBA, scored five points combined in Game 2 and 3 of the series. He turned back the clock with a dazzling 35-point performance in Game 4. More from The Brooklyn Game recap:
Williams has heard every word, and admitted in a candid moment that he’d let the criticism affect his play.
“I’ve had a lot of support in the last couple of days, with things that have been said, not only from my teammates but other people in my life,” Williams said at the podium. “It definitely means a lot. Jarrett’s talked to me a lot about being aggressive, and just keeping my head on. I do have a tendency to get down on myself pretty hard and pretty quick, and so he definitely told me I was due for one.”
Yep, Wizards-Nets, would be all kinds of fun. Surprisingly, that matchup might just happen.