The Brooklyn Nets might as well hand head coach Steve Nash his walking papers now. The level of respect the locker room has for coach Nash feels at an all-time low, which says a lot. Nash never had control of the team, which was highlighted over the weekend following an NBA summer league game.
Following a 26-point, 7-assist performance in a win over the 76ers Sunday, second-year guard Cam Thomas was interviewed after the game where a reporter hit him with a comment from Nash.
“I was talking to your coach Steve Nash,” the reporter said. “He’s encouraging you to look for your shot and your teammates.”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “It is what it is,” he replied.
Cam has the potential to be a good player, but this is just sad on the surface. This comes off as Nash having zero respect in the Nets locker room. That may not have been Thomas’ intent here, but the optics of him rolling his eyes after hearing about constructive criticism from his coach are not good.
It’s possible Thomas rolls his eyes at the negative narrative around his passing ability, but knowing so much about the situation in Brooklyn, that feels like a minor issue. The bottom line is that Nash’s “authority” was usurped before he coached an NBA game. When Kyrie Irving commented before the 2020-21 season about the Nets coaching situation being a collaborative effort, Nash was doomed to fail.
“I don’t really see us having a head coach,” Irving said when appearing on Kevin Durant’s new podcast The ETCs. “You know what I mean? KD could be a head coach. I could be a head coach.”
Nash walked onto the job with little credibility as a coach and no experience. We see what’s happened within that organization over the last two seasons with Nash “calling the shots.” In actuality, it’s been Irving and Durant making the decisions while Nash shrugs his shoulders as nothing more than a figurehead.
As a two-time NBA MVP (back-to-back at that), eight-time All-Star, and seven-time All-NBA selection, you’d imagine that resume would garner more respect among today’s players. That couldn’t be any further from the truth in this situation. Nash has been in over his head from the start, and it’s only gotten worse.
I blame everyone involved, from ownership right down to Kyrie and KD. Nets owner Joe Tsai opted for the quick fix in bringing Durant and Irving to Brooklyn. Tsai pretty much handed over the franchise to his star players, and we see how that’s worked out. It’s not easy to be LeBron James or attempt to copy his blueprint.
Not everyone is born to lead. I think everyone finally realizes that Durant isn’t a leader like LeBron or Stephen Curry. Durant can be your best player, but he needs other players who can handle leadership responsibilities. It’s just not in him. And Kyrie is Kyrie, and that’s what he’ll continue to be. He does his own thing and has his own style of “leadership,” which no one wants to follow. Boston and Brooklyn are great examples of Irving’s leadership skills being displayed, and neither worked out.
It does feel like Tsai is finally attempting to wrest control of his team away from his stars. The Nets are trying to trade KD, and that process is moving slowly. And once a Durant trade is secured, an Irving trade will likely follow. There would be no reason to continue dealing with Kyrie once Durant is gone.
For Nash, I feel like this is it. He’s walking the plank this season into the abyss. The organization never empowered Nash to even make folks think he was in charge. He’s essentially just been there to fill a spot. If the Nets rid themselves of their stars, I don’t see the Nash situation getting any better. Some of Brooklyn’s young players like Thomas have witnessed everything between Durant, Irving, and the franchise. There’s no clear way to improve that locker room with Nash sticking around.
Hopefully, Tsai has learned his lesson about the quick fix. They put together a “super team” with KD and Kyrie, then traded a haul for James Harden. Nothing has worked, and Brooklyn has won one playoff series in three years. I think everyone has seen enough, including Joe Tsai, and it’s time to drop off the luggage and move on.
Irving needs to go. Durant wants to go, and they should grant him that wish. Then it’s time for Nash to go as well. How do you gain control of a locker room you never controlled in the first place? You don’t. Blow this ship up Brooklyn and start building the right way. Even if the Nets run it back one more time, they probably aren’t going to win a championship anyway.