NBA

Steve Nash Knows Exactly How He’s Going To Use Kevin Durant in Brooklyn

No one expected Steve Nash to become the Brooklyn Nets‘ new head coach. Critics quickly pounced on the franchise for giving Nash the job in the first place. But the furor has subsided. The focus now turns to what Nash will do in the role. He’s already revealed some of his plans. To the surprise of no one, Kevin Durant will be the centerpiece of the team. 

Steve Nash is a sensible gamble for the Nets

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Despite signing two marquee free agents, the Brooklyn Nets began the 2019-20 season with as little pressure as any perennial bottom feeder. Bringing Durant and Kyrie Irving was a huge coup for the Knicks. But Durant’s Achilles injury made this year irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Adding two stars forces the front office to make big decisions faster.

Kenny Atkinson was fired while the team had a 28-34 record. The move surprised many observers of the league. While the firing was harsh — injuries hit the roster hard and the previous season showed that Atkinson had a positive impact on results — it was an inevitable example of the stars flexing their muscles within the organization.

Durant and Irving didn’t support Atkinson, so he lost his job at the first sight of trouble. The next coach would have to be approved, if not directly chosen, by them. Their choice was Steve Nash. Nash was a beloved player. But his becoming head coach angered some people. They were insulted that he “skipped the line.” Some said he benefited from white privilege to get it.

Nash agrees with some of this assessment. But look past the media storm and you’ll see the reasoning for giving a rookie coach this gig. Nash is not the first former player to become a head coach without any previous experience. His established relationship with Durant gave him a leg up on other candidates. 

Kevin Durant’s versatile skill set is a big part of his gameplan

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Nash may be fortunate to be the Nets head coach. But now that he’s in the position, Nash must find a system that gets the best out of the roster. His appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast shows he’s already given it some thought. When asked by JJ Redick about his plans for Irving and Durant, Nash calls it “the easiest part of the job.”

 “They’re two exceptionally difficult players to defend,” he continues. “[Irving] can score as well as anyone in an iso, and Kevin with his length is a matchup problem for everyone.” Nash also praises the versatility of both players, explaining that Irving’s shooting ability makes him a great spot-up player, and that Durant will play all five positions for the team. 

Going small is now the norm in the NBA. The Miami Heat made it to the Finals with Bam Adebayo as the only big man in their rotation. Durant has already shown that he’s capable of performing in numerous roles with ease.

By the time he got injured in the Finals, he was LeBron’s competition for the best player. But it remains to be seen if he’s the same guy after such a significant injury. If he’s lost any of his greatness, then a number of teams can keep Brooklyn from winning.

Brooklyn will have championship ambitions next year

New Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash
Former NBA player Steve Nash in 2018 | Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

The Eastern Conference has been the lesser side of the bracket for years. But next season’s playoffs should be filled with teams who will be disappointed to not make it to the Finals. Miami shocked many people this season, but with their young talent and available cap room in the coming years, they should be in title contention for a while with this group.

Two of the teams they beat to get to the Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, will enter next season with a lot of pressure. The Toronto Raptors may not have the talent to win another ring, but they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs at the bare minimum. The Nets have plenty of talent, but they also have a lot of internal questions to answer on the court.

As great as Durant and Irving are, there are fair questions about how a franchise built around their personalities will fare. How those two players will deal with outside noise if things aren’t going well? Nash will get little time to catch up with this team.  It’s a lot to deal with. Brooklyn will hope Nash’s calm demeanor from his playing days translates to life on the sidelines.