NBA

Can We Blame Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for Kenny Atkinson’s Nets’ Departure?

In the months ahead of the 2019-20 season, there weren’t a lot of expectations for the Brooklyn Nets to make noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets have been able to navigate their way forward into the postseason picture, but the franchise made the sudden decision to part ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson. There initially wasn’t clarity on what led to that choice amid the regular season, but that has finally garnered insight into why the team went that route that involved Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving playing factors.

Kenny Atkinson’s tenure with Nets

Atkinson spent the last four seasons as the helm for the Nets, helping them become a playoff-caliber team in the Eastern Conference. The team made their postseason berth for the first time under him last year and are on pace to reach that once again this year, holding the seventh overall spot.

During his time with Brooklyn, Atkinson finished with a 118-190 record, which included losing north of 50 games in each of his first two seasons. The decision puts assistant coach Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach for the rest of the season.

The initial hope was that Atkinson could be the head coach when Durant returns to the fold next season to help guide the franchise to compete for an NBA title. Things steadily progressed south, leading to his firing before the season’s end in what’s been a surprising manner from an outside perspective.

There is finally some clarity on the entire matter that brings forth the reasoning why Atkinson was fired this past weekend.

What led to Kenny Atkinson’s firing

The decision to let go of Atkinson came at a bit of a surprising time, but it’s nothing that came without any serious thought.

There had been some brewing conversation towards that being the case as things were heading progressively in that direction. According to Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer of the Athletic, Atkinson didn’t have any interest in coaching Durant and Irving next season.

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.

There was also a growing disconnection with several other players that was transpiring between them and Atkinson. The team had recently aired out their true feelings about the direction of the franchise in a team meeting that saw Durant state there was the right culture to build a championship-caliber roster.

It was much than just Durant and Irving as there was a growing loss of connection with Atkinson and many of his players that made moving this direction the appropriate move. That created an inevitability that things were going to head down this route be it now or at season’s end to make a change at head coach.

Nets have clean slate for the 2019-2020 season

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The Nets may not have had the desire to move in another direction with their head coach, but it’s a move that gives them an empty and clean slate for next season.

Brooklyn will likely roll with Vaughn for the rest of the year as the interim head coach, and look to find their permanent fixture for the position in the offseason. There are already reports that suggest that Irving isn’t pushing for former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue to take the job.

At this point, there is no clarity in regards to who will be in the running for the position, but it’s likely a choice that both Irving and Durant will have a say in helping choose. There should be much-needed clarity in the coming months.