The pieces keep moving.
Kevin Durant may or may not take meetings but David Aldridge says if he does, they’ll be in New York. But, warns Ian Begley, there’s no front runner, writing that reports of Nets in front are “not accurate.”
Still, the rumors still tend toward a Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant pairing in New York. Stephen A. Smith is convinced of it.
If they do sign the two superstars, the Nets can, with some salary cap finagling, find avenues to add DeAndre Jordan, as Bryan Kalbrosky reports.
And Gio? Never mind.
With only the weekend separating us from the opening of free agency at 6 p.m. Sunday, the Nets most momentous off-season remains a bit up in the air. The Nets, like any team in the free agent market, would like to have everything done by that deadline, but it’s unlikely. Irving remains the best bet, with Durant right behind. Ask Vegas.
No doubt, the Nets pitch (if needed) is honed and ready. And we noted Thursday, the Nets have a lot of positives, and with regard to Irving’s recruitment, Brian Lewis notes Brooklyn has an often overlooked advantage.
Jeremy Lin, Jeff Teague, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell all had their career seasons playing under Atkinson. The four highest-scoring campaigns of Teague’s 10-year career all came under Atkinson, as did Linsanity in the Garden and Russell’s All-Star debut in February.
Kenny Atkinson, point whisperer indeed, both as an assistant and head coach. Ask Dinwiddie, the Nets back-up, why he’s so successful, beyond the x’s and o’s.
“He’s the first one in the gym,” Dinwiddie told Lewis. “There are times after a back-to-back where we have an off-day and I come in at 9, 10 a.m., and he’s here already, talking to me about a play that happened yesterday. And I’m like, ‘I thought you’d be asleep. What are you doing?’ ”
“I watch a ton of the great point guards — Steve Nash, Chris Paul, I studied those guys,” Atkinson said. “That was my first attraction in player development. The springboard was the point-guard position,” Atkinson said. “I just had a special affinity for those guys.
All that is unlikely to be lost on Irving. One former NBA scout thinks Atkinson’s system and personality could get Irving, already an NBA champion and Olympic and World Cup gold medalist, to yet another level (if he decides to sign, of course.)
“Kyrie has the skill set to be terrific there,” said ex-Raptor and Hawk scout Bryan Oringher. “Kyrie’s fatal flaw, at least last season, was overcomplicating things. He settled for way tougher shots than he had to. Sometimes the game comes too easy to him and he’s gotten sucked into being more flashy and creative than just being efficient.
“He needs to take cues from [James] Harden and just simplify his game: focus more on rim and 3’s, hone in on one or two moves instead of 20. Kenny can get him there — it’s just a matter of is Kenny really willing to chew Kyrie out and hold him accountable and tell him he needs to clean up his [stuff] to be truly great? Is Kyrie willing to hear all that? If so, you’re golden. If not, you’re in trouble.”
Are the Nets willing to take on such a volatile, if no doubt skilled player? Think of it this way, writes Lewis. While Atkinson has gotten career years from ALL his point guards, Irving represents a step up. “None of those had Irving’s talent,” Lewis notes, referring to Lin, Teague, Russell and Dinwiddie.
And if, somehow, DLo returns to the Nets, Atkinson will be ready to smooth feathers ruffled by free agency.
So, we anxiously wait for the next rumor, the next Woj Bomb, but we can take a little solace in knowing that the whisperer Atkinson is likely to get the most out of whoever the Nets sign to run the point.
- Nets banking on Kenny Atkinson to be the Kyrie Irving whisperer - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Analysis: It’s Knicks-Nets in Big Apple free agency battle - Brian Mahoney - AP