The off-court back-and-forth between LeBron James and the Celtics-turned-Nets was supplemented by a little on-court fireworks Thursday, when Brooklyn's Paul Pierce delivered a hard foul to Miami's MVP forward during the first quarter of a preseason game.
With a little more than six minutes remaining in the first quarter, James pushed the ball up hard in transition, looking to cut towards the paint from the left side of the court. A backtracking Pierce slid into James' path, leaning in with his right shoulder to send James stumbling off-kilter.
The New York Daily News reports that Pierce's intention with the play was to put the entire NBA on notice.
“That’s going to (be) our identity. It’s a message to the league.”
“Definitely we want to be a hard, grind-it-out team,” Pierce said of the Nets' defensive philosophy. “We don’t (want) nothing to be easy for the other team.”
Before the game, James suggested that Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers were perhaps a little hypocritical for leaving the Celtics one year after they criticized former Celtics guard Ray Allen for signing with the Heat. Garnett fired back, saying LeBron should "worry about Miami."
Let's be candid: this wasn't exactly the most intimidating, bone-crushing message from Pierce. Watching the replay of the foul, the message he sends reads something like: "I understood my limitations and was savvy enough not to let LeBron embarrass me."
Brooklyn went on to win the exhibition game 86-62. More importantly, all parties seemingly left the Barclays Center eager to start the Heat/Nets rivalry right where Heat/Celtics left off. Miami will visit Brooklyn on Nov. 1 for the first of four match-ups this season. Adding a "layer of intrigue" (read: stack of cash), the two teams will reportedly wear "nickname jerseys" during one of their contests this season.