Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving reportedly ‘never connected’ with Kenny Atkinson
The Brooklyn Nets announced on Saturday that the team had relieved Kenny Atkinson of his coaching duties, and it unsurprisingly appears the opinions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving played some role in his abrupt dismissal.
While Durant and Irving cannot be blamed exclusively for the Nets’ decision to move on from Atkinson, the fact that the two superstars failed to bond with the head coach appeared to all but doom his chances of keeping his job.
In a postmortem deep dive into how things reached a point of no return so quickly, Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic explore how Durant and Irving are said to have “never connected” with Atkinson during their joint first season with the Nets.
Further, there was said to be a belief within the Nets organization that Durant and Irving “did not have interest in playing for him when this team is whole again next season.”
As noted, it doesn’t appear that the opinions of Durant and Irving alone doomed Atkinson. Following an embarrassing 39-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, players reportedly called out Atkinson during a postgame team meeting.
Despite the behind-the-scenes turmoil — and more importantly, the season-long absence of Durant (as expected), not to mention how Kyrie Irving’s injury-plagued campaign recently ended with shoulder surgery — the Nets somehow managed to persevere with Atkinson at the helm.
Sitting at 29-34, the Nets are slotted in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. In the end, though, Nets brass nevertheless decided it was time to make a move.
“However, enough information had been gathered prior to that, and even Atkinson, sources said, started to understand he had lost his most critical players, the report from The Athletic reads. “As a result, the Nets’ front office had to take all of the information it had at its disposal to make a difficult decision.“
It remains to be seen what the Nets will do long term to fill the position vacated by Atkinson. In the interim, assistant coach Jacque Vaughn will run the show for the remainder of the season.