The shorthanded Nets upset the Boston Celtics. Friday night, they blew out the San Antonio Spurs, further cementing themselves as a playoff team.
Saturday morning they fired coach Kenny Atkinson.
This has been painted by the Nets as a mutual parting of the ways, with Atkinson, general manager Sean Marks, and owner Joe Tsai all agreeing that Atkinson’s voice no longer resonated with the players in the locker room.
Atkinson was at the heart of building the Nets’ hard-working, blue-collar, everyone-is-accountable culture that lifted the Nets to the playoffs last season and has them on target to do the same this season. Former players love him.
We all know what changed. This summer the Nets brought in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, two superstars used to playing and winning on their own terms. It was always going to change the culture in Brooklyn, making it more about the stars than the team. That is the way of the NBA, and the stars got their wish on Saturday.
The Nets, of course, deny this.
If Irving and Durant wanted Atkinson to be the coach, he would still be the coach.
The question becomes, who do the Nets hire that resonates with Durant and Irving? Is he going to be better than Atkinson? There’s a lot of skepticism around the league that the Nets made themselves better.