Nets' Kevin Durant Talks Relationship with Steve Nash, Playing with Kyrie Irving

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

Brooklyn Nets guard Theo Pinson, left, guard Kyrie Irving, center and forward Kevin Durant watch the game action during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in New York. The Nets won 123-116. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Brooklyn Nets won't have to worry about the level of buy-in from star Kevin Durant about first-year head coach Steve Nash.

Durant explained on The Old Man and the Three podcast (via SNY's Ian Begley) how he first came to respect Nash and how things grew from there:

"Our relationship started from him playing and me admiring him as a player. And then playing against him and competing against him and then finally getting a chance to work out with Steve—seven or eight years ago. (I) understood how his mind works for the game and every time I was in the gym with him I was like a sponge. I'm looking forward to this, man. I always feel like I'm a student of the game and (Nash, as) somebody who has experienced so much and played in different eras, I'm looking forward to him teaching me some more things about it as well."

The 10-time All-Star also spoke about how he's enthusiastic about finally getting to play alongside Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn:

"Just his IQ for the game. He can score from any angle on the floor. I think that will open it up for everybody on our team. When you've got multiple guys who can score from all three levels, it makes your whole team better. So I'm excited to see how we work off of each other. Playing Team USA and All Star games gave me a little glimpse of what can happen but I'm looking forward to the full training camp and the full season."

The Los Angeles Clippers are a perfect example of how bringing two stars together doesn't guarantee a seamless transition to championship contention.

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Keeping everybody happy was an early challenge for head coach Doc Rivers, and their general lack of cohesion is apparent from the fact that they're on the brink of elimination in the second round of the 2020 NBA playoffs.

That's why Nash's hiring came as such a surprise.

Nobody questions the Hall of Famer's knowledge of the game, but being a head coach isn't just about strategy. He'll have to manage all of the personalities in the locker room, something he has never done in a coaching context.

The parallels to Jason Kidd were immediate from the moment Nash came aboard.

The Nets made a bet on the recently retired Kidd to coach a team that just added Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Brooklyn won 44 games in 2013-14 before losing in the second round. Kidd was gone the following offseason.

Irving is a wild card as well since nobody knows how he and Durant will mesh on the court. The six-time All-Star didn't enjoy being in LeBron James' shadow during their time together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Durant will presumably try to strike a more equal balance with Irving, but he can't control how others frame the Nets' narrative. At the end of the day, many will likely see Durant—not Irving—as the most important player for the franchise.

Durant's respect for Nash is clear, and Irving has likewise expressed his affinity for the legendary playmaker. That will only go so far, though, before Nash is judged by his players and others more on his coaching acumen.