With rumors still swirling regarding Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s recent dismissal, a recent report suggests that a few members of the team’s coaching staff were having a hard time dealing with superstar point guard Kyrie Irving’s health concerns, which limited him to just 20 games this season before he underwent shoulder surgery last week.
According to a report from SportsNet New York NBA insider Ian Begley, there were “some” Nets coaches who felt “frustrated” by Irving’s frequent injury-related absences, which added to the fact that fellow high-profile free-agent acquisition Kevin Durant is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles injury. It isn’t clear, however, whether this alleged frustration contributed to the Nets’ decision to part ways with Atkinson, and whether the dismissed head coach was among the staff members who felt this way about the point guard.
Considering how the 2019-20 regular season will end with Irving playing less than a fourth of Brooklyn’s games, Begley cited one former Net who played under Atkinson, who said that the former coach should’ve been given a chance to coach the team with a healthy Irving and Durant leading the way. However, the new development comes shortly after multiple reports claimed the two superstars were largely behind the Nets’ decision to fire Atkinson.
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) March 8, 2020
As covered separately by The Athletic (via Bleacher Report), alleged tensions between Atkinson and his players came to a head last Wednesday, following the Nets’ 118-79 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. This meeting reportedly saw Durant complain that the organization wasn’t building a winning culture capable of driving them toward a championship, with the former league scoring leader and Irving described as having “never connected” with their now-former head coach. It was also alleged that there was a “growing belief” the two multiple-time All-Stars didn’t want to play for Atkinson in the 2020-21 campaign.
Amid all these rumors, Nets center DeAndre Jordan recently commented on the ongoing drama, telling ESPN that the reports are “bullsh*t,” also noting that it isn’t fair to blame Atkinson’s departure on all of Brooklyn’s new acquisitions, including himself. Per SportsNet New York, one important point of contention between Atkinson and his players was the fact that the ex-coach had Jordan coming off the bench, with youngster Jarrett Allen regularly getting the nod as the team’s starting center.
Regardless of the reasons behind Atkinson’s firing and his staff’s purported frustration with Irving’s recent injury history, the Nets remain firmly in contention to make the postseason. The team is currently ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 29-34 record and are six games ahead of the ninth-seeded Washington Wizards.