When Kenny Atkinson was announced as the next Nets coach, I was very excited. Atkinson had stints in New York and Atlanta before coming to Brooklyn for what he knew would be a long rebuild. Yet the challenge of taking an asset deprived and talent deprived team and turning it around didn't seem to phase him. Two seasons into his stint here, I feel like there are some questions that need to be raised.
There's no denying the culture shift that Atkinson has helped usher into the Barclays Center. The togetherness, belief in what's being built, and the budding culture in Brooklyn has been noted time and time again by coaches and players. Atkinson has earned the trust of his locker room, no one puts it better than what Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said about his coach:
Atkinson's reach doesn't end at the culture he's building, he's been able to develop players into serviceable NBA players. You don't need to look any further than Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis Jefferson, Joe Harris, and budding star D'Angelo Russell. The system Brooklyn plays has also helped revive the careers of Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll.
This duo just doesn't work — by Nets Daily
Let us put aside the argument that Brooklyn doesn't have the talent to compete. The Nets have had a lot of close games throughout the season and various heartbreaking losses. There have been multiple times where Atkinson just doesn't want to budge from what he wants to do. The most recent offense was the Nets loss to the Raptors just the other night where the Nets let Jonas Valanciunas drop 26 points with 14 rebounds. There was not a single Nets player on the court last night over 6' 8”. The rotations the Nets play and the times they substitute tend to be erratic and seem borderline unprepared.
The offense is a whole different story of irritating issues. While yes part of it is due to the roster, the dependance on three point shooting while being horribly inefficient lands on the coaches shoulders. There is also a lack of adjustment to defenses, instead there just seems to be an acceptance to shoot a contested 3.
Lastly let's tackle the elephant in the room. A backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie does not work. This backcourt is a fundamentally flawed pairing as they're both ball dominant guards who only magnify their own individual flaws when playing together. The determination of Kenny Atkinson to get the duo to work is an experiment that needs to be shut down immediately.
Remember Mark Jackson? Mark Jackson was a great person, a great hype man, but a terrible coach. It feels like Kenny Atkinson is following this path and that scares me. The culture and trust he's built coupled with solid player development are things no one can overlook or knock him on. Unfortunately the on court stubbornness and inability to adapt are issues I cannot overlook. While I'm not demanding the Nets fire him, in fact it'd be terrible to do so as we're still rebuilding, I do not see Kenny Atkinson coaching a NBA Finals contending team.