There was a lot of surprise this offseason (and rightfully so) when Paul Pierce decided to leave the Brooklyn Nets and take his talents to the Potomac River. It's not everyday that a Finals MVP opts to come to the Wizards. And it's also not everyday that star-studded and financially-ballooned Nets lose one of their stars.
In his first comments about Pierce's departure, Nets' General Manager Billy King gave some insight into the decision to let him walk. From The New York Daily News:
"We did (want to bring Pierce back). That was the plan of attack and I think as we started negotiating, the numbers that they asked for were, you know," King said in his first comments on Pierce's departure. "And I thought at one point that he was definitely leaving. And then you started switching gears because you start hearing that he's going to end up at a different place. So then you start preparing. And then when he came back to us (to try to negotiate again), we already moved on.
"I think it was his first time being a free agent so he was exploring all his options. There were a lot of teams that didn't put offers on the table, but were talking to him. And I really thought he was going to end up some place else. And then, I don't know who was it, but one player signed and things quickly changed. And we were already preparing that he wasn't coming back."
So money was definitely a factor here, but it sounds like the departure worked out for both parties (and ESPECIALLY for Washington). By not matching the Wizards' offer, the Nets saved about $22 million in luxury tax fees, per The Brooklyn Game. (That high price tag was self-inflicted, but that's water under the bridge). Not coincidentally, this year also marks the first year since Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets that they've actually declined in payroll. The team used some of that savings to sign Bojan Bogdanovic.
If nothing else, this conversation gives some good insight into how quickly the free agency negotiation process can progress and how teams and players have backup plans in place.