The Brooklyn Nets made it official Thursday night.
When Paul Pierce fouled LeBron James, refusing to give ‘The Chosen One,’ a clear path to the basket for what likely would have been a monster slam dunk on the Nets’ home court, it was the first physical statement of what this team intends to be.
Somewhere in Barclays Center, GM Billy King had to be smiling.
"At some point, you've got to knock a guy on his ass if they're doing things," King said in training camp. “You've got to take a hard foul and let them know you just can't do that."
It was an important statement and it was delivered by one of the veteran players King brought here to transform the Nets into a hardened playoff team.
Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry have other roles to fill as well. Their experience is the perfect complement to Coach Jason Kidd’s inexperience on the bench.
Kidd has said from the day he took the job that he knew he had a lot to learn. He’s worked hard to accomplish that, attending a summer clinic with the likes of Tom Grgurich and Gregg Popovich, and skipping team functions, such as the private screening of Captain Phillips, to watch film.
Kidd also has the luxury of two veteran assistants. Lawrence Frank and John Welch are as good as it gets.
What Kidd has not had the luxury of is seeing this team in its entirety, which could be a problem early in the season.
Starting point guard Deron Williams (sprained and bruised right ankle) has yet to go through a full practice and it’s wearing on him.
“They’ve had a lot of battles out there, a lot of great practices and I want to be a part of them," said Williams. “So at times I feel like I’m not part of this team right now because I’m not out there.”
Jason Terry is hoping to test his left knee Wednesday night when the Nets play in Boston. He has yet to appear in a preseason game as he rehabs from off-season knee surgery, which was not considered serious.
Andrei Kirilenko, the versatile forward who can guard almost any position on the court, has been limited by back spasms.
No wonder Kidd’s default response to a lot of questions concerning the development of the team has been to say, “It’s a process.”
It is, and this process has been slowed by the injuries.
Whenever a team brings in a new coaching staff and makes a blockbuster deal, as the Nets did, it’s going to take time see how all the parts fit.
And Kidd hasn’t been able to see that.
“We don’t know what our full potential will be," said Pierce. “We won’t know our full potential until [Deron] gets healthy."
“He’s going to be the engine that drives this; he’s the point guard and an All-Star in this league.”
Nets fans should heed those words, especially if the team doesn’t get off to a fast start. The season opener is eight days away and the Nets have yet to have all the key parts on the court.
At least when Williams, Terry and Kirilenko return, they will know what’s expected. Pierce has seen to that.