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Steve Nash earning praise as his Nets ride high

Brooklyn Nets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

When Blake Griffin was asked on his Bleacher Report AMA why he had chosen the Nets over, say, the Lakers, the veteran said all the right things about a chance at a ring, but also noted that he liked the head coach and the GM.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Steve Nash and all of the guys they have,” he said. “Sean Marks has done a great job there. It was a tough decision and I wanted to be on a team that was contending.”

Nash, in his rookie year, is starting to get accolades for his coaching. He was named NBA Coach of the Month for February, the first Nets head coach to win the award since Jason Kidd won it twice seven years ago.

He’s also winning kudos from his players wise old heads in the NBA. The day he won the award, DeAndre Jordan echoed a lot of what’s been said by Nets players off-and-on all season.

Jordan called Nash a “player’s coach” and noted his best coaching quality is his willingness to let the players “police themselves,” an acknowledgement that Nash shares their views on player empowerment, particularly when those players are current and former All-Stars.

“Some coaches may not have that ability to do that or they might not want to give up that control to let the players police themselves at times, and I think he does a really great job trying to let guys figure it out, and then if we are not figuring it out, then he steps in and takes that responsibility, but all up and down the line, I think he’s done a really great job,” said Jordan.

“Steve is obviously extremely competitive,” said Joe Harris. “But I think he’s just one of these guys, where he really has his emotions in check. He’s not ever too high or too low. It’s very even-keel most the time, even when stuff is difficult. But I think for us, it’s sort of nice to know that that’s like the constant; it doesn’t waver a ton, regardless of what’s going on. It’s always optimistic and positive.

“Yeah, in terms of showing the fiery side, there are definitely maybe moments here and there, whether it’s halftime, after a game, whatever it is. But a majority of the time, it’s just sort of the consistency that he’s shown from the beginning of the season, to now.”

It’s not just about what he’s doing this year. The respect he gets from his players goes back to his time as a player. Harden, another fan of Nash as a coach, said as long ago as 2016 that he modeled his game after Nash. Nash had that kind of respect and credibility when he walked in the door in what was the first of many Sean Marks surprises this season.

While Nash got a lot of criticism from fans and pundits early in his tenure, it shouldn’t be surprising. He is, after all, a rookie, former Nets GM Rod Thorn told Brian Lewis of the Post.

“Most of the great players who become coaches don’t spend time as assistants. Now, you never know what kind of [head] coach they’ll be,” Thorn told Lewis. “They take some time to determine that, exactly how good a coach is he going to be. To me, Steve’s done a very good job.

“He’s got some good assistant coaches with him. And, as he stated, early on it’s a learning experience for him, too. To have top-flight assistant coaches with you really helps. And you know those three players they have are so good offensively, that once they get rolling and people are healthy, they’re going to be a tough out.”

Nash has admitted that there’s been a learning curve to his first experience leading from the bench.

“It’s a natural progression to gain comfort on the sideline, comfort in practice, comfort in film sessions,” Nash said recently. “It’s not just coaching. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes into being a coach; that’s something that takes time to adapt to.

“I don’t say, ‘Man, I’m a way better coach than I was 10 days ago.’ I’m gaining comfort, I’m learning, I’m getting to know my team and our challenges. … [The players] deserve the credit. … But I don’t like to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just coaching the heck out of my team. I’m balling over here.’ Take it one step at a time.”