While Kyrie Irving certainly wasn’t helping keep Kenny Atkinson employed, he reportedly wasn’t the total driving force behind his dismissal.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday parted ways with the now-former head coach. The Nets have vastly underachieved this season, though that’s in part to Kevin Durant missing all season while Irving only played in 20 games.
Shortly after the announcement of Atkinson’s dismissal, reports began popping up that Irving was partially behind the firing, and that he wants Tyronn Lue as the coach. But in an in-depth feature for The Athletic, Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer reported Irving and Durant played a role in getting Atkinson canned but didn’t spearhead the effort.
“Durant and Irving never connected with Atkinson and there was a growing belief that they did not have interest in playing for him when this team is whole again next season, sources told The Athletic.
“It was not limited to just Durant and Irving, though. Several other players are also said to have begun disconnecting with Atkinson.
“To be clear, a directive from Irving or Durant was not given to fire Atkinson. Marks and his front office are leaders of the franchise. The proper research must be done, and gathering a pulse of the franchise is always ongoing. The belief had been that the stakeholders involved in the franchise would evaluate everything at season’s end. However, enough information had been gathered prior to that, and even Atkinson, sources said, started to understand he had lost his most critical players. As a result, the Nets’ front office had to take all of the information it had at its disposal to make a difficult decision.”
Of course, some of this is Irving and Durant’s fault just indirectly. Atkinson’s system is geared more towards team-centric play than star-driven. As such, the roster was gutted to make way for Irving, Durant and DeAndre Jordan, so players that better fit Atkinson’s style — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll among them — all were cut loose. So with Durant unavailable and Irving limited, it effectively left Atkinson up the proverbial creek without a paddle. He was doomed from the start.
For now though, the Nets still likely will make the postseason, either as the seventh or eighth seed. That all but certainly spells a first-round departure for them, as it’s tough to see Brooklyn getting past the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors.
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