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Nets Rumors: Kyrie Irving Prefers Tyronn Lue as HC After Souring on Atkinson

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2020

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and head coach Kenny Atkinson, left, stand on the court in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

New details are beginning to emerge on the parting of ways between the Brooklyn Nets and head coach Kenny Atkinson in the wake of Saturday's announcement.

According to Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, Atkinson pushed to end the relationship as much as Brooklyn did. Goodwill also reported that marquee offseason acquisition Kyrie Irving had "soured on [him] early":

"Irving soured on Atkinson early, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and currently prefers Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue to be the team's next head coach. Lue was the head coach in Cleveland when Irving hit the winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals and was in talks to take the Lakers job before discussions broke down."

"This is the NBA. Disagreements happen, it's an alpha male-dominated environment, a highly competitive situation," Spencer Dinwiddie told Goodwill.

Lue hasn't held a full-time head coach job since his time in Cleveland came to an end after the Cavaliers dropped their first six games to open the 2018 season, but the respect he commands from elite players around the league has been well-documented.

But Kevin Durant, the team's other major offseason acquisition, pointed to Atkinson's approach as a reason he chose to sign in Brooklyn last summer, per ESPN's Jackie MacMullan.

Before Durant had a chance to play for Atkinson, the coach was on his way out of town. What made the Nets such an attractive destination initially appears to have led to Atkinson's demise as players possibly pushed back, per Goodwill:

"For the Nets, their 'culture' came at a cost and for anyone who thought otherwise, a culture only goes as far as the players allow it to, and even then there will be natural erosion over a period of time — hence why [general manager Sean] Marks alluded to Atkinson apparently telling him recently that 'my voice is not what it once was here. It's time.'"

Both Durant and Irving are out for this season—Irving played just 20 games this season because of various injuries—yet that won't stop the Nets coaching job from becoming one of the most highly sought-after positions this summer and with a number of brand-name coaches already available, Lue and David Fizdale among them.

Where Brooklyn goes from here is unclear. The team was in the midst of a turbulent season before Saturday's abrupt announcement, but are still in a position to make the playoffs. That may help the case of Nets' interim coach Jacque Vaughn, who reportedly has developed a strong rapport with Irving.

"We have the immediate connection of being point guards," Vaughn said, per Goodwill. "We've formed a relationship, which I've tried to with each guy, but I guess we're able to talk in point guard language."

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