Despite being eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, it was clear that the future was bright for the Brooklyn Nets. However, what nobody could see coming for Brooklyn was the summer of 2019 being one of the most successful off-seasons in franchise history. The Nets had committed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to long-term deals before the opening of free agency had even officially started.
Before Nets fans could even fully digest their playoff exit the narrative had switched from them being a team with a bright future to one that had a bright present. Of course, bringing in not just one but two max players is not a seamless transition. Bringing in two stars means acclimating them to new teammates, coaches and procedures which can bring about a lot of growing pains.
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Kyrie Irving Played Key Role in Kenny Atkinson’s Firing
After tearing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals Durant did not play in his first season so he did not have the chance to play under former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. However, Kyrie did play under Atkinson for one season, before he and the team decided to part ways midseason. According to Matt Sullivan the author of Can’t Knock the Hustle Irving was a major part of the reason that Atkinson and the Nets ultimately parted ways.
“I just remember not being able to talk to the management, talk to the coaches, talk to anyone without them being kind of scared of these guys [KD and Kyrie] … Including Kenny Atkinson, who built this whole program up,” Sullivan said during a recent appearance on Le Batard and friends. “He’s kinda saying ‘Let’s leave KD, the Maserati, in the case, and let Kyrie be Kyrie.’ But Kyrie goes behind his back and gets him fired.”
Despite Sullivan’s report Atkinson had Durant’s full support when he first joined the Nets. KD had done his research and respected his work ethic as a coach. “I was doing a lot of YouTube research on Kenny Atkinson,” Durant told SNY’s Ian Begley in 2019. “I really liked his approach to his craft as a coach. That’s what drew me in pretty quickly.”
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Atkinson Nearing Deal To Become New Assistant Coach for Warriors
Atkinson spent this past season as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, but his tenure in Los Angeles appears to be a short lived one. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Atkinson is nearing an agreement to join the Golden State Warriors coaching staff next season. Getting back Klay Thompson to go along with, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and two lottery picks in this year’s NBA Draft, it is an ideal situation for the former Nets head coach.
Whether Irving did in fact have a role in Atkinson’s termination is something that has yet to be confirmed by the Nets star. But if that is the case, he could not have asked for a better replacement in Steve Nash who helped lead the Nets to the second seed in the Eastern Conference this season. He will be looking to justify that decision with a championship next year.