When the Nets fired Kenny Atkinson it was shocking for everyone outside the Nets organization. He had successfully coached them through one of the most difficult rebuilds of any NBA team, got them in the playoffs and helped put the team in position to land free agents like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Unfortunately for him, Atkinson apparently fell out of favor with some of those players and his time in Brooklyn was up.
But when did that happen exactly? It obviously didn’t occur overnight, but there had to be a moment where it was clear that Atkinson wasn’t going to be around much longer. According to reports, that sentiment came out of a series of team meetings where players aired out grievances and the opinion of Atkinson changed. Though they supposedly never demanded his firing, according to reports from Shams Charania and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, the front office and Atkinson saw the writing on the wall.
The Nets held a spirited team meeting, according to sources, starting with several veterans expressing that they wanted to see Spencer Dinwiddie play like the player they know, and later with people in the room calling out Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan. Then perhaps the most critical thing of all happened: Sources say Durant chimed in, pointing out that the Nets must improve their habits and that they were not building the proper culture traits necessary for a title contender.
“It was a come-to-Jesus moment,” one source with knowledge of the meeting said. “It was an honest conversation where everyone tried to make things right.”
Now that the Nets have finally bit the bullet and fired Atkinson, though, they are in the most difficult part of their rebuilding. Taking that final step from complete product to contender can involve a coaching change, but it comes with great risk. If the Nets make the wrong hire it could lead to years of work being derailed and pushing the team back into mediocrity. Of course, the perfect hire could push them right over the edge and lead to Irving-Durant being the greatest scoring combo in the NBA.
We won’t know the results of the move for a while now, but it’s clear Brooklyn wanted to go in a different direction at this point.