NEW YORK – The latest transformation of the Brooklyn Nets began with moderate goals and a fateful follow-up question: “What about K.G.?”
Billy King and Danny Ainge, the respective high-ranking executives for the Nets and the Boston Celtics, had agreed last month to the general parameters of a trade that would send swingman Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. Then came the query from King: What about a larger deal? What about Kevin Garnett?
It would be complicated. Garnett had a rare no-trade clause and was fiercely loyal to Boston. It would take some selling. It would take more assets to make the deal work.
“Danny said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” King recalled Friday, “and we just kept talking.”
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When they finally stopped talking, King and Ainge had constructed a landscape-altering deal that would spark championship visions in Brooklyn and end an era in Boston. The Nets would acquire Pierce, forward-center Garnett and guard Jason Terry — a graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle — in exchange for a package of role players and three future first-round draft picks.
The deal, consummated in principle about two weeks ago, became official Friday, allowing King to discuss it for the first time. The Nets also signed ex-Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko on Friday, completing a stunning summer makeover.
“Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets,” team owner Mikhail D. Prokhorov said in a statement. “With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved a great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch, and tough to compete against.”
It will also be expensive. The addition of Kirilenko pushed the Nets’ payroll to $101 million and their projected luxury-tax bill to $82 million, an NBA record, though a manageable sum for Prokhorov, one of the world’s richest men.
“I think our fans should thank … Prokhorov for everything he’s done to help us get here,” King said.
The Nets entered the offseason with seemingly little flexibility, because they were far over the salary cap and had few assets that could be moved. But Boston was the perfect partner, a former title contender ready for a demolition and in need of cap relief and draft picks.
“Honestly, did I think we could pull something like this off? No,” King said. “From the beginning, no. But Danny and I just kept working at it and got to the point where we both were comfortable.”
Garnett agreed to waive his no-trade clause after heavy lobbying from the Nets, including phone calls from Deron Williams, the star point guard, and Jason Kidd, the new coach and a respected peer during his playing career.
“It was a tough decision for him, because he is very loyal,” King said of Garnett, adding, “I just felt that if we did things the right way and were first class, he would be willing to join us.”
The new Nets seemingly will be much deeper and much tougher than the team that won 49 games and got bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season. Even at 37, Garnett is one of the savviest frontcourt defenders in the league. Pierce, 35, remains a feared three-point shooter. Neither one can carry a team any longer, but both should fit well with a lineup that is stocked with scorers.
“I enjoy the fact that people keep questioning Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce because I know that they’ll come out and prove people wrong,” King said.
Brooklyn also got forward D.J. White from Boston. The Nets sent Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to the Celtics. Boston also gets the right to swap first-round picks in 2017.
Thus the Nets gave up nearly every available asset they had to make the deal.
• It was an eventful day for the Dallas Mavericks. They reportedly agreed to terms with ex-Milwaukee guard Monta Ellis, who has a 19.4 scoring average in the league, and lost rookie guard Shane Larkin to injury. Larkin, who played college ball at Miami and was the 18th player drafted this year, broke his right ankle in practice and might miss about three months.
• Forward Metta World Peace, waived by the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, said he doesn’t want another NBA team to pick him up, ESPN reported. World Peace, 33, told media, “I want to go to China, or coach or play Arena Football.”