Nets GM Billy King responds to Paul Pierce

NEW YORK -- Nets GM Billy King responded to Paul Pierce’s comments about Brooklyn’s non-contending status Tuesday, saying the organization remains committed to winning.

Pierce, who was not offered a contract by the Nets in the offseason and ended up signing a two-year, $11 million free-agent deal with the Washington Wizards, told NBA.com that the Nets “wanted to cut costs” and felt like they “weren’t going to be a contender.”

“Right now, they’re in the middle right now. And I didn’t want to be in the middle,” he added.

Responded King: “What he was told [versus] what I said is not the truth. But I respect Paul and I’m happy that he’s still playing, and I’m happy that he played and did well for us last season. But he’s with the Wizards now and we’re here. Our goal is still to try to win a championship. We’re not taking steps back or anything like that. We’re trying to build a team that we feel can win.”

King said the Nets felt like they were going to be able to bring Pierce back in the offseason. But his side wanted $8 million to $10 million per season, according to sources, a number King was not willing to meet. Pierce’s camp felt they could get that number, then came back, but the Nets had already moved on.

“When the negotiations started I thought we were gonna bring him back,” King said. “They were at a number that we weren’t ready to go to, and then they were pretty confident that he was gonna get that number, so we moved in a different direction. And then when they came back, we had already proceeded in a different direction.”

The Nets paid an NBA-record $197 million in payroll and luxury taxes last season. That number is down to around $130 million going into the season, though those numbers are not calculated until the end of the regular season, so they could change.

King said that ownership remains committed to building a championship team, however.

“They haven’t wavered one bit,” King said. “I think we’re spending pretty good right now.”

Despite reports to the contrary, King said, “I think it’s been said, [Mikhail Prokhorov’s] not selling.”

King is confident that if there was a move that could make the Nets better, yet add more payroll, ownership would sign off.

The Nets, sources said, moved on from Pierce because they already had a logjam at power forward and did not believe he could guard small forwards. He also would’ve cost them an additional $20 million in luxury taxes if he signed for a similar figure to what he did in Washington. Pierce, who averaged 13.5 points for the Nets last season and made $15.3 million, turns 37 years old on Monday.

The Nets are hoping that younger players like Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic help make up for Pierce’s departure. Veterans Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko provide depth as well.

The Nets are starting Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez up front under new coach Lionel Hollins. They went small under Jason Kidd after Lopez went down for the season, with the vocal, veteran leader Pierce thriving at the stretch forward position.