Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets faced off against the Atlanta Hawks in a one-sided affair in which Atkinson saw his former team batter his new team in the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets had very little riding on this game, thus making what happened after the game perhaps the most significant moment of the night.
After the buzzer sounded and the Nets headed into the locker room, the entire Hawks bench hung around to exchange some words and hugs for their former assistant coach. The video was featured on Sportscenter’s "Why We Love the Game" segment.
We Kenny Atkinson! pic.twitter.com/Wln7QrqrzY— HaWWWWWWWks (@ATLHawks) January 11, 2017
NBA players and coaches are extremely quick to get off the court as soon as possible. Teams often have strict time schedules after games, whether it be for media purposes, appearances, bus departure or simply wanting to clock out at the end of their shift. Not on Tuesday. Not when the Hawks get to see Kenny Atkinson as head coach of the opposing team.
The entire exchange was special to see. Coach Atkinson has earned the respect of so many players and coaches around the league. Everybody knows he belongs where is right now as a head coach after years of hard work overseas and in the NBA.
Unfortunately, his first season may be the toughest of his career.
"Well you feel a little bit for Kenny Atkinson tonight. Brooklyn is trying to build something special here, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game. "The wins are a little bit hard to come by and you know how hard he is working and how hard his players are working. It’s hard. I care so much about him and I want good for him so it is a little bit hard."
In the past, we probably would’ve just taken something like this and appreciated the moment for what it was. Nothing more. However, what makes this so much more important is how the Brooklyn Nets are indeed looking to create something special, starting with the culture.
As we’ve pointed out on several occasions, a culture isn’t set without proper leadership. Then you talk about surrounding personnel and continuity. Those are three basic keys in forming a culture. Atkinson and Marks have shown they possess good leadership skills, now we just wait and see if the personnel they’ve selected within the organization fits what they’re looking for.
The continuity thing has always been a problem here, and it may continue to be that way if the Nets are going to shop players around in order to get draft picks and/or young assets. Yes, it is a process - one that could take a very long time.
Judging from the past, it’s refreshing that the Nets are being guided by two very well respected leaders. From a fan and pundits perspective, it’s easy to judge Atkinson and Marks on wins and losses, but this season was never about that. It’s about setting a precedent for the future in effort to build something special, similar to what Coach Budenholzer and former Assistant Coach Kenny Atkinson had in Atlanta.
"We’re going to look at the tape and watch it to see if we can pick up some things," Atkinson said of the Hawks after the loss. "They set the bar high and we can look at it and say someday we’d like to strive to be a similar program, but we have a lot of work to do."
The hope, the thought, is that some day in years to come, some other coach or player is saying the same thing about the Brooklyn Nets organization.