- The Brooklyn Nets went all-in on the future when they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
- While both can be absolute magic when they play, the team must cater to their every whim to keep them happy.
- That’s why the team fired Kenny Atkinson, and it’s why they’ll make an ill-advised run at San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
When the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Durant, they knew what they were getting. On the court, they were getting a magician: a rare talent capable of taking over a game on any given night. Off the court, they were adding a prima donna.
If they fail to keep him happy, they can bet he and Kyrie Irving will exercise their opt-out clauses in 2022. With Durant out with an injury this season and Irving missing most of the year himself, that means just two opportunities to win a title.
The Nets would like to be relevant for more than two years. That means doing what it takes to keep their thin-skinned, temperamental superstars happy.
If they decide they don’t like head coach Kenny Atkinson six months into their tenure with the Nets, he’s out.
If that means pursuing longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, you do it. Yes, even though common sense and logic tell you that it is a stupid idea and a complete waste of time.
Even Skip Bayless knows it’s a bad idea:
.@RealSkipBayless on the rumor about Gregg Popovich coaching the Nets:
"Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would last about 2 weeks with Popovich. These are two of the thinnest-skinned superstars that ever came down the pipe." pic.twitter.com/hcMi8SlxVT
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) July 6, 2020
Why Gregg Popovich?
Kevin Durant’s respect for Gregg Popovich is no secret. He has gushed about Popovich repeatedly over the years. And why not? Any player with championship aspirations would love to play for Popovich. At least in theory.
Popovich is like the Bill Belichick of basketball: blunt and to the point in interviews but capable of turning virtually any roster into a winning team.
Factor in his many accolades, and it is not hard to understand why Durant wants the team to go after him:
- 22 consecutive playoff appearances
- 18 consecutive seasons with 50+ wins (20 if you count the 1998-99 strike-shortened year in which they had a .740-win percentage)
- 5 NBA titles
- 3 Coach of the Year awards
Does Durant really think the Nets have a shot at getting him?
Well, Popovich does sound like a fan of Nets GM Sean Marks. Here’s what he said in early 2018:
Gregg Popovich talked about Sean Marks and the #Nets:
“With each week, month, year that goes by, the Nets will be closer to being where every team wants to be, and that’s competing in the playoffs.” pic.twitter.com/8nUzl4GVU3
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 17, 2018
The Nets Will Do Anything to Keep Kevin Durant Happy
Even so, Brooklyn can’t be deluded enough to think they will actually land the legendary coach.
As recently as early July, Sean Marks addressed the rumors that the team was preparing a “godfather offer” with hopes of getting Popovich to leave San Antonio:
Pop has a job. So, I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach — and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So, I’ll let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs. He owes it to them, and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there.
It sounds like Marks knows pursuing Popovich is a fool’s errand. So why are the Nets planning on making him a priority in their search? Because Kevin Durant likes him.
To be fair, the Nets have a roster full of talent – it’s not just Durant and Irving. Almost any coach in his right mind would love to take over that squad. Just not a coach who has spent 24 years coaching his current team and punched his Hall of Fame ticket years ago.
Certainly not when that coach is 71.
The Nets know this – but they’re going to pursue him anyway. Kevin Durant left them with no choice.
And it could have devastating consequences. Targeting Popovich will give the 76ers, Bulls, and Pelicans a head start on wooing the best candidates. By the time they’ve finally done enough due diligence to placate Durant, three of the best coaches on the market will likely no longer be available.
Brooklyn will find that hiring the right head coach is a lot harder than it should be. All because they had to appease Kevin Durant.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.