It’s been a season like no other for the Brooklyn Nets. In a season filled with key injuries, dozens of different starting lineups, the James Harden-for-Ben Simmons trade and Kyrie Irving only playing in less than 30 games due to his refusal to be vaccinated and the City of New York’s vaccination mandates, Steve Nash has had quite a lot thrown at him this year.
Through it all, Kevin Durant has praised the Nets head coach for how he’s handled all the bumps and valleys this season and post-game Friday, the franchise’s cornerstone, he not only endorsed Nash for his job but said the head coach had handled it all “perfectly.”
“I think he’s done a great job. The last two years, he’s been dealt a wild hand: injuries, trades, disgruntled players, guys in and out of the lineup, and stuff that he can’t control,” said KD, his “disgruntled” player comment apparently referring to James Harden. “I felt like he’s handled it the best as he could.”
Specifically, Durant was asked by Ian Begley of SNY how he believes Nash has handled the job in his second year in the head chair.
“I think it’s on us as players to make his job easier, so guys have been doing a good job of just listening and responding well to Steve. We all know this whole thing is that everybody’s developing every single day. It’s his first real opportunity as a coach. I think he’s handling it all perfectly, to be honest.”
Outside of key injuries and weathering the February 10 trade deadline blockbuster, Nash has been no stranger to juggling rotations and starting lineups. This season, the Nets have put out a franchise-record 43 different starting lineups and had a single-season franchise-record-tying 19 players draw at least one start this season. That record eclipsed Nash’s rookie year — a year Brooklyn displayed 38 different starting lineups and also had 19 different players draw at least one star.
Nash briefly discussed the latest change, waiving James Johnson, prior to the game. He called it a tough decision. He added, “We have to just move on and just keep coaching the group.”
While some fans have called for the Nets to dump Nash, there seems to be no appetite in ownership, management — or on the roster — for a change. Durant’s endorsement adds to Nash’s security.
Brooklyn (43-38) is tied with Cleveland record-wise in the Eastern Conference standings but sits in the 7-seed because the tiebreaker. If the standings hold, the Nets would host the Cavaliers at Barclays Center on Tuesday for the 7/8 Play-In Tournament matchup. The winner is the 7-seed in the first round of the NBA Playoffs while the loser plays the winner of the 8-9 game to fight their way to play the top seed in the East in the first round.
After the team waived veteran forward James Johnson Thursday afternoon, it was evident the move provided an opening for the team to convert Kessler Edward’s two-way contract into a standard NBA contract. That would allow him to be playoff eligible. The Nets have not made the conversion official, but Kyrie Irving praised the Nets rookie wing after Brooklyn’s 118-107 win over Cleveland Friday night. The superstar explained how Edwards deserves to become one of the 15 players that will help the Nets chase their first NBA championship.
“He puts in the work. He listens. He’s professional every single day. He comes in and asks questions. He’s very attentive to the details that we’re asking. For that, he deserves to be rewarded,” said Irving on Edwards. “When you put in that much work and you have that consistency, we see it all the time. Guys get really blessed in a position to be with us for the long haul or be with the team or the long haul, so we’re excited to have him and he deserves it.”