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Pierce exodus signals shift for Nets

Paul Pierce goes to Washington on a two-year deal after the Nets rebuffed the veteran forward.
Paul Pierce goes to Washington on a two-year deal after the Nets rebuffed the veteran forward.
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For the first time, the Truth goes to Washington.

In a surprising development following LeBron James’ latest decision, veteran forward Paul Pierce became the most recent Net to skip town. Suddenly, Billy King’s Brooklyn cupboard is somewhat bare.

After the Nets had passed on re-signing the future Hall of Famer, Pierce inked a 2-year, $11 million deal with the upstart Washington Wizards. He joins Shaun Livingston, who signed with the Golden State Warriors, as yet another departure from last year’s late-season dark horse.

Brooklyn will head into the 2014-15 season without Pierce, Livingston, and Marcus Thornton, who was traded to the Boston Celtics in a 3-team trade which saw the Nets acquire Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev. Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson are also well within their right to bolt the borough.

Pierce’s departure came as such a surprise considering the Nets could have kept the 10-time All-Star. The price was not all that high, but with the organization strapped with gargantuan salaries, they opted for fiscal responsibility. Call it a changing of the guard, call it learning from history’s mistakes, perhaps even call it rebuilding.

Maybe Mikhail Prokhorov realized his high-stakes wheeling-and-dealing could not guarantee him that coveted championship. Unfortunately, he paid the price. The Nets relinquished three first-round draft picks and a mess of expiring contracts in last summer’s Boston blockbuster.

Last season’s surge may have paved the way for next season’s swoon.

The Nets will need oft-injured stars Brook Lopez and Deron Williams to not only stay healthy but regain All-Star form in the process simply for the team to make some waves. Outside of Joe Johnson, they will not have much firepower.

Aside from the current Big Three, new head coach Lionel Hollins will rely on Jack, Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mirza Teletovic for the heavy lifting. If Kevin Garnett returns to the team, as expected, they will hope for something — anything — from the 20-year vet.

The Nets face stiff competition in a suddenly competitive Eastern Conference. Not only will the Cleveland Cavaliers vault to the top of the charts, the Chicago Bulls and Wizards look to be markedly better. The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors will still enter the season with better odds than the Nets.

And despite losing James, the Miami Heat retooled in a hurry. In addition to retaining Chris Bosh and likely Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley added Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, and Shabazz Napier.

Even teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons promise to be better.

In a week’s span, the Nets entire makeup changed. Unfortunately, not for the better.

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