The Brooklyn Nets are currently in an interesting place as a franchise. Not only do they have a lot of intriguing young talent, but they also have two superstar players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. With both of those players slated to return from injuries next season, the Nets are expected to be legitimate contenders for a championship.
To help bolster their chances, the Nets recently decided to bring in former NBA star Steve Nash as their new head coach. While Nash doesn’t have any prior coaching experience, he is regarded as having one of the best strategic minds in basketball. Here we take a look back at Nash’s NBA career, why it made sense for the Nets to hire him, and what Durant has said about his new coach.
Steve Nash’s career in the NBA
The Phoenix Suns drafted Nash with the 15th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft. Nash’s career got off to a slow start, with the point guard mostly coming off the bench for his first two seasons. His true talent didn’t really emerge until the Suns traded him to the Dallas Mavericks prior to the 1998-99 season.
Nash’s play drastically improved in the 2001-01 season, when he averaged 15.6 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game, while knocking down 41.3% of his three-point shots.
Those numbers would only improve in the coming years, with Nash proving himself capable of both shooting and passing at an elite level. Nash led the league in assists in five seasons.
Even more impressively, he won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006, while playing once again for the Suns. He was an eight-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA First Team selection.
He holds career averages of 14.3 points and 8.5 assists per game, while having shot 42.8% from three-point range. Nash was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Why the Steve Nash hiring makes sense
While Nash might not have any head coaching experience, the Nets decision to hire Nash him still makes sense on a number of levels. For one thing, Nash has a well-established ability to see the game like few other players or coaches in league history. For another, he has also proven himself more than capable of winning the trust of his fellow players — particularly those with star-level talent.
That bodes well for Nash’s ability to bond with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and thus to keep them happy in Brooklyn for many years to come. Analysts expect Nash to be particularly helpful for Irving, since the two play the same position. If Nash can earn Irving’s respect, it may help to minimize some of the chemistry issues that Irving has exhibited over the years.
Kevin Durant’s recent comments about his new coach
The Steve Nash hiring makes even more sense when you consider that he and Durant already have a long-standing relationship. In a recent appearance on the J.J. Redick podcast, The Old Man and The Three, Durant laid out some of his thoughts about the Nash hiring. He praised Nash’s intelligence and communication and “insight for the game.”
He also revealed how excited he was to get the opportunity to work out with Nash seven or eight years ago. “Every time I’m in the gym with him, I was always like a sponge,” Durant explained at one point.
He and Nash got even more of an opportunity to bond while Durant was playing for the Golden State Warriors, where Nash was serving in a part-time consulting role.
That positive relationship should bode well for Durant and Nash’s new partnership in Brooklyn. It’s also worth pointing out that this won’t be the first time Durant has had a former player for a coach. He and Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr also had a productive and friendly relationship, despite Durant’s decision to ultimately leave Golden State. If Durant and Nash end up clicking in the same way, the Nets should have some truly exciting seasons ahead of them.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference