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Stein: Nets may be interested in Phil Handy as an assistant coach

Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The last time we heard rumors about Lakers assistant Phil Handy, it was two summers ago when he was reportedly in contention for Nets head coach following Kenny Atkinson’s departure. That turned out to be wrong. The job was Steve Nash’s to turn down.

Now, Marc Stein writes that Handy, 50, could be a candidate for a Nets assistant job, perhaps the job Adam Harrington, director of development in Brooklyn for six years, is about to leave. Stein has reported that both Harrington, and David Vanterpool, who joined the Nets a year ago, will not return, Amar’e Stoudemire has already announced that he won’t be returning as a player development assistant.

Will the Lakers keep highly rated developmental coach Phil Handy ... or is Handy potentially Brooklyn-bound? The Nets have a need on the developmental side in the wake of Adam Harrington’s expected departure and Handy, remember, has a strong working history with Nets guard Kyrie Irving from their Cleveland days. If the Nets are bringing Irving back, having Handy on the staff to forge a stronger connection with him would be, well, handy.

Handy worked with Irving in Cleveland and had a remarkable run as an assistant between 2016 and 2020, making it to the NBA Finals in each of those six seasons. He won a ring in 2016 with the Cavs, 2019 with the Raptors and 2020 with the Lakers.

Indeed, Handy told Brian Lewis two years ago that he has a special relationship with Irving.

“Obviously me and Kyrie spent four years together in Cleveland, tremendous growth for him,” Handy told The Post. “When I got to Cleveland, he was still a young kid just trying to figure it out. I was able to help him learn how to be a pro, and our relationship went way further than basketball.

“Off the court, we spent a lot of time together. We were neighbors. We lived two or three doors from each other, so it was a lot of growing and maturing.”

Similarly, he told Mike Mazzeo of how he and Irving worked together.

“Kyrie is a special talent,” Handy told Mazzeo. “His dad was a big influence on skill growing up. He always worked on his off hand to be equally good at finishing at the rim. Even back to my Cleveland days we spent a lot of time on his left-hand finishes.”

And Alex Schiffer notes that connections between Handy and the Nets are deeper than that...

Although there have been reports that most of the eight-man coaching staff will not be returning, Handy is only the second name mentioned as a possible replacement. James Borrego, who was dumped by the Hornets at the end of the regular season, has been identified as a possible assistant. So has Adam Caporn, who was head coach of the Long Island Nets this past season. Caporn, who got the G League affiliate into the playoffs and was named G League Coach of the Month for February, is also a development specialist.