Brooklyn’s decision to fire coach Steve Nash seven games into the NBA season could help Ben Simmons get his career back on track, but it could also be a precursor to the Aussie star being fired as well.
Nash and the Nets “parted ways” overnight, with the two-time MVP now out of the ongoing dumpster fire of a franchise following a win over Indiana, just their second of the season.
Ime Udoka, who was suspended for the season by Boston for inappropriate behavior with a female Celtics staffer, is set to take over as coach after Jacque Vaughn replaced him on an interim basis, starting with the Wednesday’s 108-99 loss to Chicago. to drop the Nets to a 2-6 record.
And it all plays out as star guard Kyrie Irving started another unnecessary drama off court by posting a link – then later deleting it – on social media that promoted an anti-Semitic film.
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“Did I do something illegal? Did I hurt someone? Did I hurt someone? Do I come out and say I hate a specific group of people? was Irving’s bizarre explanation for his actions when asked about it at a press conference before trying to claim the post wasn’t technically promoting the controversial film. Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.
He then claimed via Twitter that he was being unfairly judged.
“I am an OMNIST and did not mean to disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs. The ‘anti-Semitic’ label imposed on me is unjustified and does not reflect the reality or truth in which I I live daily.I embrace and I want to learn from all walks of life and all religions.
Irving has caused drama in Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn with his flat Earth and anti-vaccination, but after opting for a one-year extension to his stay in Brooklyn, he is unlikely to be sent packing. as he retains the support of superstar teammate Kevin Durant.
Nash didn’t get KD’s approval because he told Tsai he wanted coach and general manager Sean Marks fired in the offseason.
The fact that Nash is now gone after the first half of the regular season means Nets owner Joe Tsai is once again letting his star players make decisions that should be above their astronomical pay grade. Brands should be edgy.
Simmons is on the periphery of it all.
He is out with a minor knee problem but should be back soon. It remains to be seen how long he will stay in Brooklyn.
The 26-year-old former All-Star was a shell of himself in his comeback season after a year out when his time as a circus in Philadelphia came to an end due to his business demands, his mental health issues and his back problem.
Simmons averaged 6.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 44.1% from the field and 46.7% from the free throw line.
All that talk about working on his game during pre-season turned out to be exactly that. He defends well enough for a team made up of offensive-oriented players and his rebounding and assist numbers are decent, but he’s still not a factor when it comes to getting the ball in the basket. Durant and Irving are averaging more than 30 points per game and they’ve still dropped six of eight.
If he is traded, he may find himself in a better position on a rebuilding team that can supplement his skills with shooters. Or he could end up on another team that sees him as nothing more than a defensive stopper who should step aside on offense and for the rest of his career he bounces around without ever really fitting in.
Udoka, a former Nets assistant, worked wonders with Boston last season during his rookie campaign as head coach, taking the Celtics to the NBA Finals after instilling in them defensive toughness and shooting the best of star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
He will certainly improve Brooklyn’s porous defense but can he get Simmons to shoot with conviction? Will the Nets even bother to persist with Simmons or will he be the one to be traded mid-season rather than the problematic Irving or the eternally restless Durant?
And whether he should be allowed back is debatable. He was removed from his position by Boston for undisclosed incidents serious enough to warrant a one-year ban. If the NBA allows him to simply switch teams after actually serving a few weeks as head coach, that raises ethical questions that commissioner Adam Silver must answer.
Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t have time for wild Irving conspiracy theories and settled into the Australian-born guard on Inside the NBA.
“The game that we love and promote, it brings people together. It hurts me sometimes when we have to sit here to talk about things that divide the game. We have to answer for what this idiot did.
“I stand for equality for all. It doesn’t matter what religion, it doesn’t matter where you’re from… This is how I was raised. I can’t speak for him or answer for what he’s done. It’s obvious by his answers and the way he answered, he doesn’t really care.
“You have to be aware of what you’re doing and you have to be aware that sometimes when you’re putting stuff out, not everyone is going to like it.
“Some people are aware, some people aren’t. I can tell he’s not aware, he doesn’t really care what’s going on.
The Nets released a statement condemning Irving’s statement, but does anyone think that will stop him from being an eternal distraction.
Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, which meant he was unable to play at home due to New York mandates at the time, torpedoed Brooklyn’s chances last season.
Despite the dramas of Irving and James Harden forcing his mid-season exit in the Simmons trade, Nash still found himself with a 92-62 record after taking Brooklyn to the playoffs in the full two seasons in his first outing as an NBA coach.
Irving and Harden’s injuries destroyed their chances in 2020-21 when they exited in the second round against eventual champions Milwaukee in a series that could still have gone either way, but last season they were swept away by Boston in the first round.
“Since becoming head coach, Steve has faced a number of unprecedented challenges, and we are sincerely grateful for his leadership, patience and humility throughout his tenure,” Marks said in the Nets statement announcing Nash’s departure.
“Personally, it was an extremely difficult decision. However, after long deliberations and an assessment of how the season has started, we have agreed that a change is needed at this time.
Nash posted a tweet titled “Thank you, Brooklyn” as he strode out of the burning building with dignity.
“A very sincere thank you to Joe and Clara Tsai and Sean Marks for giving me the opportunity to coach the Brooklyn Nets,” Nash posted. “It was an incredible experience with many challenges for which I am extremely grateful.”
Surely he’s now incredibly grateful to leave it in the rearview mirror and join one of the 29 other NBA franchises that are more professionally run. Actually, 28. Yes, you Sacramento.
Everything is in flux in Brooklyn, and unless Udoka can take control, it’s going to descend deeper and deeper into chaos.