Kyrie Living His Best Life Is Not Going to Work. Steve Nash Is Going to Work but Ain’t Happy

When Steve Nash was hired to be the Brooklyn Nets coach it looked like Nash was handed one of those gigs black coaches never get. The Nets were considered the last stop before the Los Angeles Lakers repeat. Kevin Durant is why. Durant, a top-5 player, 2-time Finals MVP can do it all, even outperform LeBron James. His game is smooth as butter and no one can stop him. Post-Achilles he is as deadly as he was before he ruptured the tendon in his foot. His partner in crime, Kyrie Irving has incredible handles, can finish with his right or left, has a deadly perimeter game, is a clutch shot maker (in his own mind), and on any given night can drop 40 on an opponent while making him look stupid. With Caris Lavert and Joe Harris as subs, the Nets were set for the next few years.

On hiring day, Steve Nash received more than his share of white privilege got you that job dude. Nash had never coached other than working with the Warriors as an Assistant. He cut in the front of the line because of his pedigree, NBA body of work, exceptionalism on the court, and winner of 2-MVP’s. The NBA rewards players like Nash who want to coach but they rarely give them a straight line to the trophy.

No one is envying Steve Nash now. No one wants to trade places with him. The New York Knicks have the same record as the Nets which means the Nets are continually being clowned by Knick fan. Kyrie is AWOL but having himself a good time while the Nets are digging through their schedule not fooling anybody.

Because Nash doesn’t want to enable an offensive team that goes to sleep on defense, he hit the roof after the latest Nets loss to the OKC Thunder when they gave up 129 points. The Nets are at the bottom of the league of scoring defense, giving up 116 points per game. Nash looked at it this way.

“Do you make an adjustment or do you clean up the glaring error of just not taking enough pride and sticking to your man and having the discipline not to bail him out?”

Nash referenced the Nets other main weakness. They foul way too much.  He added, “we didn’t show enough pride or respect.” On Sunday, they had a 15 point lead in the second quarter and let OKC, who lacks a bonafide scoring star, to score 72 points in the second quarter and 66 points in the paint.

A huge part of the problem: the Nets are an amalgamation of finesse players and frankly don’t have a two-way player on the roster.  They lack toughness. Durant is sublime because of his offense. In his last full season, he ranked 83rd out of 89 power forwards in DPM (Defensive Plus-Minus). Kyrie ranked 76th out of 95 point guards using that same metric.  The defense was always going to be what the Nets needed to work on the most.

A team of offensive players, regardless of skill level, creates the label of “soft”. The Nets can score when they so desire. They are 3rd in points.  But without Kyrie their defense is predictable. Missing Kyrie’s 25 points their offense can’t dominate enough to create anxiety for the other team. Teams don’t fear the Nets without Kyrie and it makes me wonder since Kyrie is such a mercurial personality do the Nets regret not pulling the lever on a James Harden for Kyrie deal.  You can say a lot of negative things about Harden but he never quits. He plays night in and night out, strip club or not. He gives 100%.  His effort and interest aren’t questioned.

Tomorrow, the Nets play the Knicks.

Tale of Two (5-6) Cities Points Per Game 3-Point Percentage Points Allowed Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
Brooklyn 118.5 38.4% 113.0 10th 8th
New York 100.1 34.7% 105.5 29th 12th

If the Knicks and the Nets had a baby they would be the perfect NBA champion. One defends without fouling. The other scores the nylon off the nets. Put them together and you have a formidable team but of course, that is not the story. The story going into Wednesday’s game is the Knicks and their record so far. They are giving Tom Thibodeau effort, all the things that Steve Nash was so annoyed about. Nash has to preach defense, Thibodeau only has to teach it. They are a tale of two cities.

But when it’s all said and done, the Nets have Kevin Durant which will take them far. How far?  With Kyrie half-in, half-out, and AWOL whenever his heart desires, the favorites in the East look less like an NBA Finals lock and more like a mess.