Kaplan: Don’t Blame Kevin Durant for Kenny Atkinson’s Departure

On Saturday, Brooklyn Nets decided to let go of head coach Kenny Atkinson, sending waves across the league.

Who was the ringleader that saw Atkinson exit after a four-year run at the helm of Brooklyn? Kyrie Irving.

Irving has a history of being a coach killer, and he did it once again. There are reports out that he preferably wants former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach and now-Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue as the next Nets coach.

Lue coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title for the first time in franchise history during the 2015-2016 season after he took over for David Blatt.

The situation will bear monitoring as to where this goes from here, but Kevin Durant should not be blamed one bit for Atkinson being let go.

Durant has not played all season, recovering from a torn Achilles suffered during Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season against the Toronto Raptors. Durant, along with Irving, left their respective teams in the offseason to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. However, trying to blame Durant for this departure is inaccurate and lazy.

First off, Durant has not played at all this season. How could you blame a player who hasn’t played all season long for a coach’s firing?

Second, Kyrie Irving has played this season, despite being injured and Irving and Atkinson never got along. Irving is uncoachable and there is a previous track record in  Boston under Brad Stevens.

Irving stunted the growth of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who’ve both have taken off this season in Boston.

Finally, Irving is a ball-centric point guard who is clearly more invested in himself than the team. Irving has ruined the development of a bunch of players on teams he has been on and they look so much better without him.

Young players like Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa, and Nicolas Claxton were all young guys that one could argue were stunted because of Irving.

Brooklyn could’ve been better off keeping D’Angelo Russell and just bringing Kevin Durant and D’Andre Jordan along. Russell is a guy who wants to be coached, unlike Irving. But it’s possible that Durant and Irving were only available as a package deal.

So far this season, the Brooklyn Nets are seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a 28-34 record. A contending team was never in the cards for Brooklyn; the goal was always to build towards 2020-21. If the season ended today, they would face the Toronto Raptors (44-18) in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Compared to last season when they finished in the six seed with a 42-40 record last year, it’s a sad state of affairs with much the same cast.

It is such a shame that a top-15 player like Kyrie Irving has to ruin this mess in Brooklyn. General manager Sean Marks will make trades in the offseason to make Irving happy along with Durant.

As of right now, Irving ruined the culture instead of enhancing it. If they don’t win an NBA championship, he will be the fall guy of all of this and not Kevin Durant.


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