Warriors

NBA rumors: Kevin Durant soured on Kenny Atkinson, Nets' new culture

Warriors

What a difference six months can make.

The Brooklyn Nets mutually agreed to part ways with coach Kenny Atkinson on Saturday in a move that shocked many around the league. The Nets were the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference at the time, and Atkinson had been credited with keeping their heads above water despite Kevin Durant missing the entire season and Kyrie Irving being limited to 20 games.

The decision to part ways with Atkinson -- and replace him with interim coach Jacque Vaughn -- reportedly came after a contentious team meeting following a 39-point home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, and Durant's involvement in that discussion might have contributed to the outcome. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the former Warriors star pointed out "that the Nets must improve their habits and that they were not building the proper culture traits necessary for a title contender."

Durant, Irving and DeAndre Jordan agreed to join the Nets as a package deal on the opening day of free agency last offseason, and based on Durant's comments at media day, Atkinson's presence was a big reason why he decided to depart the Warriors for Brooklyn.

"I was doing a lot of YouTube research on Kenny Atkinson and watching interviews to see how he talked after games and stuff," two-time Finals MVP said back on Sept. 27. "I really liked his approach to his craft as a coach and that's what drew me in pretty quickly."

 

Charania reported Monday, however, citing sources, that Durant and Irving failed to connect with Atkinson over the course of the season, and "there was a growing belief that they did not have interest in playing for him" when they're both healthy again next season.

So, what went wrong?

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Charania made it clear that neither Durant nor Irving ever directly called for Atkinson's job, but a lineup change in Brooklyn's first game following the coaching switch seems to point to a source of division. Jordan reportedly expected to be the Nets' starting center upon signing as a free agent, but had played behind 21-year-old Jarrett Allen for the majority of the season.

When the Nets took the court Sunday in Vaughn's first game at the helm, Jordan -- who is one of Durant's closest friends -- was in the starting lineup.

Coincidence? I think not.