Kevin Durant has told Joe Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, that the team must either trade him away or get rid of head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean* Marks, according to an anonymously sourced report by The Athletic‘s Shams Charania. Ha ha ha ha ha. Who the hell knows with this shit.
It’s a sort of interesting logic problem. Way back in the summer of 2020, when Durant and Kyrie Irving joined the Nets, the (anonymous, always anonymous) reporting had the two all-stars effectively forcing out Brooklyn’s then-coach, Kenny Atkinson, and then choosing Nash for the job. The story was they wanted less a “head coach” and more a “nice and chill advisor type of guy” to help draw up schemes and rotations, but at a fundamental level defer to the authority of the star players on the court. Nash, with zero previous head-coaching experience, fit the bill. If you believe that reporting, then the fact that Durant is now issuing anti-Nash ultimatums—It’s either me, or the guy you hired on my orders to do my bidding and stay out of my way—two seasons later is pretty funny. While you’re cleaning house, make sure you get rid of the dumbass responsible for hiring a coach so shitty he alienated Kevin Dura—oh, wait.
On the other hand, if you are skeptical of today’s report—of the idea that Kevin Durant would be so mercurial and capricious, so lacking in self-awareness and accountability, as to demand the firing of his own hand-picked, disempowered coach as a condition of his remaining in Brooklyn—then there is also no particular reason to have believed the equally anonymous reporting that Durant (and Irving) picked Nash in the first place. In which case the demand that the Nets fire Nash would not imply any particular flakiness or irresponsibility on Durant’s part; in that case, why doubt that he’s made the demand? A real brain-teaser! (It’s August, man. The brain gets pretty desperate.)
While we are enumerating what’s funny about this whole deal, there’s the question of what exactly could be so bad about Nash—or, more to the point, what his job was to begin with, or whether he had one in any but the most ornamental sense. This is not a defense of Steve Nash! In most cases, evaluating the work of an NBA head coach is difficult bordering on impossible for outside observers, anywhere between its most cumulative (achievement over years and different rosters) and most granular (after-timeout play design) frames. For all I know Nash was an absolute cataclysm in the locker room, or chased the players around with a machete during practices.
It’s just, once you’ve …
- Engineered you and your cheesebutt superstar buddy’s way onto a new team; and
- Run out the team’s heretofore modestly successful head coach because you didn’t want to work with him; and
- Hand-picked a replacement with zero coaching experience; and
- Custom-designed the uniquely limited boundaries of that replacement’s authority within the team; and
- (Probably) put out there that the whole idea is for the team to be run in its most meaningful sense by the superstar players on the court,
… it’s kind of tough to then put over an argument that the coach bears more responsibility for the team’s failures than you do. How bad could the ATOs possibly have been? Was he serving lukewarm coffee, too? The same goes for the GM, Sean* Marks, whom Durant reportedly also wants gone. You didn’t even let the guy choose the coach, or the core players (who, again, arranged their own way to Brooklyn, and then reportedly spurred the team’s acquisition of James Harden, too). What was even left, after that? How ruinously is it even possible to tinker around the edges of a self-selected core of superstars? If the Brooklyn Nets had a derelict general manager, OK—but Marks held that position in name only.
It’s pretty clear which of the parties has had and exercised more power, here. Maybe Nash and Marks suck mondo ass and wanting them fired is the acme of good sense! There’s no particularly compelling evidence against this. Maybe Kevin Durant is spot-on in his determination that he and those two can’t work together. In that case—especially in that case—the very last person to listen to on the subject of what the Brooklyn Nets should do with their head coach and general manager roles is Kevin Durant. Look what happened the last time they gave you veto power over that stuff, buddy! It nearly cost them Kevin Dura—oh, wait, we’re back here again.
I can feel the basketbloggers out there, rushing to adduce this ludicrous M.C. Escher clusterfuck to the perils of player empowerment. If I close my eyes, I can all but recite the words of the inevitable-seeming, drearily GM-brained Rob Mahoney or Justin Verrier blog to this effect. To get out (hopefully) ahead of that: Owners and front-office honchos do their own version of this shit all the time: Demand, and flex, the authority to make effectively unilateral decisions about the direction of a franchise, and then, when those decisions don’t go the way they’d hoped, dump all the consequences onto the bozos they themselves installed in less-empowered positions, as though the fact of those people’s failures has nothing to say about the job performance of the person who hired them. So do head coaches, when they get the chance! Nothing about this (reported) situation implicates “player empowerment” as a uniquely destructive or chaotic force in the NBA. All player empowerment has done is broaden the field of doofuses who can shoot their own team’s feet off in this way. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing; it’s definitely a funny one.
Kevin Durant was up early this morning, making fun of some guy online for liking his job.