Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Some Nets veterans had serious questions about whether Kenny Atkinson could coach the team to an NBA title, per SNY sources.
"They weren't sure if he was the right guy," one source said Sunday.
It's unclear if the players' concerns factored in to the organization's decision to part ways with Atkinson on Saturday.
Nets GM Sean Marks said several times on Saturday that players' opinions didn't play a role in Atkinson's departure.
"This didn't involve the players," Marks said. "In this matter, it was really a discussion between Kenny and myself. We brought in ownership when we needed to and we arose at this decision."
The decision to let Atkinson go surprised opposing executives and players. One former Net who played under Atkinson told SNY that the coach deserved the chance to coach the Nets with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Irving was limited to just 20 games due to a right shoulder impingement and Durant missed the entire season while rehabbing from right Achilles surgery.
Atkinson was replaced by assistant Jacque Vaughn on an interim basis. Some have suggested that Irving and Durant were responsible for Atkinson's departure. Nets veteran DeAndre Jordan strongly pushed back against that theory on Sunday.
"The reports are b------t," he said.
"Several veterans had questions about whether Atkinson was the right coach to lead Brooklyn to an NBA Title"- SNY (@SNYtv) March 9, 2020
NBA Insider @IanBegley breaks down the Nets breakup with Kenny Atkinson pic.twitter.com/s9JeAJPSrG
Per SNY sources, some Nets players felt that Atkinson had lost a portion of the locker room recently. That aligns with what Marks said on Saturday.
It's also worth noting that some members of the Nets coaching staff were frustrated by Irving being in and out of the lineup earlier in the season before he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. It's unclear if that frustration over Irving's availability played any role in Saturday's events.
Atkinson will likely be highly coveted as a free agent head coach. He and Marks led Brooklyn out of the NBA's abyss four years ago to a playoff appearance last season. The Nets were in seventh place in the Eastern Conference at the time of Atkinson's departure.