The Brooklyn Nets have made several major moves (and spent lots of money) this offseason to improve their chances at competing for an NBA title, especially with regards to their blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics to obtain Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. On Tuesday, the Nets introduced that trio at a press conference (and streamed it outside Barclays Center for anyone who wanted to brave the heat). It was a typical affair, full of smiles and excitement over what the future holds.
Like many huge NBA deals, though, it almost didn't happen. According to Pierce, Garnett was not certain if he wished to waive his no-trade clause to play for Brooklyn. So, like anyone trying to becoming part of a winner would, the longtime Celtics star called KG to convince him to agree to the trade. From Chris Forsberg for ESPNBoston.com:
“It was a situation where [the Celtics] were going to make a move, and once the deal with the Clippers didn’t go through for [Garnett], it was like, the Celtics were trading me, Doc was leaving, so what was left for Kevin?” explained Pierce. “I talked to [new Nets coach] Jason Kidd, and he was warming me to the fact of coming to Brooklyn, then he started warming me to the fact that they were trying to get Kevin, too.
“That’s when I called Kevin and asked him what he thought about coming to Brooklyn, he immediately said, ‘Well, what pieces are they going to give up? Who is going to be left? Is it going to be possible for us to win a championship?’ He was excited when I talked to him after warming him up, just to have the opportunity to come and win a championship and be alongside a young prospect like Brook Lopez, who he can try to take to the next level. And once I warmed him up to that, he was all in for it.” [...]
“It was one long, long phone call,” Pierce said with a laugh. “Probably like an hour-and-a-half, two hours. I just remember I was standing outside and it was 100 degrees, and I just remember after the phone call I was dripping sweat.
“I was like, ‘Do you understand what’s going on in Boston? [A potential trade to the] Clippers thing appears to be dead. So what do you think, big fella? I know you don’t want to retire. I know you don’t want to retire. You have too much in the tank, you love the game too much. Sometimes you just have to tell Kevin to sit back and think about it. He reacts to everything. Like his initial reaction to everything is, ‘No.’ [You say,] ‘Kevin I got a $100 million,’ [And he replies,] ‘No.’ Then he has to sit back and think about it and then once he warms up to it, he makes his decision, and that’s about anything.
“I knew his initial reaction was going to be against it, but I knew this was going to be a long conversation, too.”
For Garnett's part, he agreed with Pierce that a change might be necessary. "I don’t like change much. When I commit to something, I like to go all-out," he said. " It’s unfortunate. Obviously, when I saw the Doc Rivers situation I knew that the writing was on the wall even before then. It was tough leaving Rondo and other things, but this is a new chapter with new things to embrace, and that’s what I’m doing.
Pierce made a good, logical argument for the switch. On the other hand, Garnett has never been one to assess a situation according to an objectively agreed upon list of pros and cons. It took him several seasons to decide to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves even when they were a regular lottery participant, and he has generally approached his career as an emotional experience. If anything, it's a little surprising that it only took Pierce one phone call — no matter how long it was — to get the job done.
But the difficulty of convincing Garnett should help us remember that changing teams isn't so simple as cutting all ties with one and investing fully in another. Garnett went through a lot with the Celtics, winning his first (and only) championship in 2008 and staying in contention for several years beyond that moment. Plus, anyone will build meaningful relationships with teammates, coaches, and other staff members over six seasons. Leaving that situation is tough, even if the franchise was no longer able to produce the level of success Garnett desires.
It's a reaction worth considering the next time commentators and fans bemoan players' inability to hate their opponents with the same fervor of past eras. With player movement at an all-time high for reasons both within and outside of their control, it's not so sensible to consider the other team on the floor as evil adversaries. That team probably includes a few old teammates, and may even be a new employer sooner rather than later.
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