The Brooklyn Nets entered the 2021-22 NBA season as heavy favorites to win a championship. On Monday, they could easily exit it as victims of a 4-0 first-round sweep at the hands of their hated rivals, the Boston Celtics. When teams disappoint to the degree that Brooklyn has, someone typically has to take the blame. For now, though, it appears unlikely that the scapegoat will be head coach Steve Nash.
One source told veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein they found it unlikely that Nash would be blamed for what's gone wrong in Brooklyn this season largely due to the unpredictable issues that have plagued the team. Nash, after all, is not responsible for the vaccine mandate that kept Kyrie Irving out for most of the year. That mandate seemed to have driven a wedge between Irving and James Harden, who forced his way out of Brooklyn in February with a trade request, and Nash could not have predicted that Ben Simmons, the main haul from that Harden trade, would be unable to play for them up to this point.
Nash was hired with the support of star forward Kevin Durant, whom he worked with in Golden State. So long as Nash retains the support of Durant, he is likely to remain with the Nets. That does not mean his performance has been perfect, though. The Nets have been criticized for their defensive performance and isolation-heavy offense all year. To some extent, those are personnel problems, but a coach is responsible for making the most of the talent that he is given. Even if Brooklyn's roster is flawed, it has as much talent as any in basketball.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
If Nash can hold onto his job going into next season, things should become considerably easier. Durant has already re-signed a long-term extension, and while Irving has not, he is expected back on a player option for next season. Simmons should be healthy enough to play. Joe Harris will return from ankle surgery as well, and the Nets picked up several spare trade assets in the Harden deal with Philadelphia that it can now redirect for help elsewhere.
The Nets have the talent to win a championship. They just haven't been able to get all of that talent on the court at the same time. If they are able to do so next season, they will have a real chance to win the championship no matter who their coach is.