NBA rumors: Kyrie Irving wants Tyronn Lue in Brooklyn

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.

More on Kenny Atkinson Out

In a year that was nothing more than groundwork for the future, the meshing of Atkinson’s style with Durant and Irving was on trial. Even though Irving only played 20 games and is out for the season following shoulder surgery and Durant is still recovering from his Achilles injury, everyone had to deal with each other and honestly evaluate if this would be a marriage that would stand into next season. “Kenny pushed for the parting just as much, if not more than Brooklyn,” a league source told Yahoo Sports.
Marks wanted to take the pressure off the players, saying it was something he and owner Joe Tsai were collaborating on more recently. But as someone who should take the pulse of his most important players before making such a change, he’s too smart to do that without knowing the room. There seemed to be friction from the start, dating back to when the team’s rigid methods seemed to clash with the individual equity stars like Irving built up through years of on-court success.
Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that Atkinson wasn’t fond of coaching Durant and Irving based on what he saw this season, and would rather something happen now than at the end of the season.
The Nets who spoke Saturday say Marks didn’t canvas them, and Durant — who spoke with Marks before Friday’s win — declined comment, but said in September he picked Brooklyn partly for Atkinson. Still, Atkinson realized some players were tuning him out, with Irving believed to be among them. “I never really did,” LeVert said. “But we had a lot of new guys this year, so you never really know how that goes.”
Joseph Tsai: I am extremely grateful to Kenny Atkinson for what he’s done for our franchise over the years. If we did not have him, we would not be where we are with promising young guys still improving. All the best Kenny.
Atkinson didn’t get the players’ best. Having stars on the roster put a target on his back. And according to sources, some players put the knife in, though Marks contested otherwise. “This didn’t involve the players. This was a matter where it was a discussion between Kenny and myself. We brought in ownership when we needed to and we arose at this decision,” said Marks, who fired Atkinson despite having Kyrie Irving for just 20 games and Kevin Durant for zero.
Durant — who had a conversation with Marks before Friday’s win — had said in September that he picked the Nets partly because he wanted to play for Atkinson. Now that won’t happen. Stars have long been able to puppeteer coaching changes. Irving is the other star on the roster, leading to the perception that he engineered Atkinson’s ouster, or at least was one tuning out Atkinson’s voice.
Frank Isola: The Nets, from what I’m told, were prepared to make a coaching change after season. That it happens now is odd considering Sean Marks comes from Spurs, the franchise with the longest tenured coach. Find it hard to believe Marks is doing this in-season unless edict came from above
Andrew Yang: I’m stunned that Kenny Atkinson is out as Nets coach. Team always overachieved and players got better.
Greg Logan: Marks denied that Durant and Irving had any bigger role in this than any other players. Also declined to comment on speculation about Mark Jackson as future coach because he shares same agent as Durant.
Ian Begley: Nets’ Sean Marks says he and Kenny Atkinson had constant open dialogue about the state of the team over the last several weeks. He said Kenny, himself and owner Joe Tsai made the decision for Atkinson to leave BKN this morning.
Brian Lewis: Marks on how much input they took from players: “In this matter it didn’t involve the players. It was between Kenny and myself and brought in ownership when we needed to.” #nets
Ian Begley: Some players felt that Kenny Atkinson had lost some of the locker room recently, which is fairly common when teams struggle. This may ultimately be inconsequential but you probably won’t find a bigger Mark Jackson fan than Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant’s business partner/manager.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sean Marks and Atkinson had several conversations and the sense had been that a change was inevitable and both sides decided that there was no sense waiting on it. Both had felt that Atkinson and Nets had run course together. They have maintained a close relationship.
Ian Begley: Nets GM Sean Marks will address reporters this afternoon. The Nets won 20 games in Kenny Atkinson’s first season (16-17) and made the playoffs last year (42 wins). They signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the offseason and Atkinson won’t have the chance to coach them. Wow.
Ian Begley: In the Nets’ season-opening press conference, Kevin Durant said Kenny Atkinson was one factor that led him to BKN. “I was doing a lot of YouTube research on Kenny Atkinson.... And I really liked his approach to his craft as a coach. And that’s what drew me in pretty quickly.”
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