BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Maybe Kevin Durant was on to something about wanting Nets head coach Steve Nash fired this offseason.
From watching the Nets season opener Wednesday night, they played like they wanted their head coach fired in a sloppy 130-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center. That was the takeaway from this game.
Outside of Durant, no one came ready to play. They played like this was the first time they got to know each other. There was no chemistry and communication on the court. Playing defense turned out to be optional on this night. There was not much flow on offense.
Here’s the stat that tells you the story: The Pelicans outrebounded the Nets 61-39, and the Nets were hammered 36-4 on second-chance points.
Don’t offer this pap that it’s one game. Outside of Ben Simmons, this roster has been together for awhile. There’s no excuse to not play with energy and effort in the first game of the season. There’s no way guys should have trouble figuring each other out.
This performance reflected poorly on Nash for not getting his team to come out and be ready to go. It could get him fired sooner rather than later.
The third-year head coach knew he was on shaky ground when the season started. He had to work hard to earn players’ faith and trust again. He needed to sell Durant that he can be the guy that can elevate the team. He had to make an impression right away.
He knows he’s a losing streak away from losing his job at any point of the season. He was fortunate to survive after Durant’s failed power play.
The players did not do him any favors with their performance. Kyrie Irving played passive on defense and offense to finish with a pedestrian 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting with a -18 to show for it. Quite frankly, he seemed so disinterested, and that’s troubling in the first game of a new season. Simmons looked hideous in his first game on the court since Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals by scoring only four points and grabbing five rebounds with a -26 to show for it in his 23 minutes of work that featured him fouling out. The bench players offered nothing.
The offense was more of iso as in giving the ball to Durant, who led all scorers with 32 points. This was one of many criticisms of Nash as coach last year. He relied way too much on his superstar and did not find a way to put the ball in other players’ hands.
The Pelicans set the tone with a 32-14 lead in the first quarter after a 16-4 start to the game and entered halftime with a 58-50 lead. The belief entered the team’s mind at halftime. They felt they could beat the Nets when CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Larry Nance Jr. found a way to score by beating their defenders.
Nash called timeouts early to get his team settled in. He even used his bench a lot more to get his team jumpstarted. Nothing worked on this night.
They were aggressive and they could do anything they want and the Nets couldn’t do anything about it.
The Pelicans put the game away by scoring 40 points in the third quarter by going on a 21-6 run at one point to extend their lead to 87-62.
One would think the Nets would come out like gangbusters to start the second half. One would think the players would be annoyed with their effort. One would think the head coach would make adjustments and draw up some creative plays. Shoot, one would think the head coach would have had an answer to the Pelicans’ run.
It never happened at all. That was the troubling part of all this. It was bad enough the Nets came out disinterested and lazy from the start. It was worse when the coach couldn’t get his team out of its rut.
This has been Nash’s MO as a coach. He lets players figure it out for themselves. At some point, Nash has to learn on the job and figure out how to draw plays, stop runs, get his team ready to go from the start or put players in a position to succeed. He hasn’t figured out that part of it, and it’s easy to understand why Durant has been frustrated with him. He has gotten worse rather than getting better as head coach.
Durant knew entrusting Nash as his coach was going to be a leap of faith, but he figured to give it a try since they knew each other from their Warriors days. He knew there would be growing pains as head coach for Nash. Similar to what Jason Kidd endured in his first two stops as head coach.
Kidd started off awful as a head coach, but he figured it out as the Dallas Mavericks head coach through his failures with the Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, He has become more of a defensive head coach. He has spent more time working at his craft such as being more of a player development coach. He knows how to make a lineup fit. He actually worked on his craft. This is something Durant and the Nets hope Nash would figure out as he went along, but it hasn’t happened.
One has to wonder if it ever will happen here. With pressure on Nash to win right away, there’s no room for error anymore. Either he knows it by now or he doesn’t.
It could be Nash may have to grow by being an assistant coach like Kidd was with the Los Angeles Lakers before he got his shot to coach the Dallas Mavericks.
Coaching Durant and Irving may have been too soon and too big for the Nets head coach. The thought was the players would make it easy for him. It hasn’t been the case. The Nets point guard is simply a headcase in the sense he is unreliable and inconsistent.
The Nets were better off firing Nash as soon as Durant let it be known to Nets owner Joe Tsai. There was no point keeping him since he will eventually be fired at some point this season. It was better to start anew with a head coach with a training camp. Just keeping him on would be a distraction in a sense he and the player would answer questions about his job security after a losing streak.
It’s hard to know who would coach the Nets if Nash is out. This new coach would be learning as he goes along. This is not an ideal situation.
But with the way it’s going, anyone would be an upgrade over what the Nets got right now.
This isn’t working anymore.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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1 thought on “No Way Nash Is Long for This Job”
Switch some names around and it’s like someone’s tenure at federal express