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Steve Nash the one who must elevate the game for the Nets in the middle of the 0-2 hole

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As a head coach in a professional sports league, Steve Nash makes perfect sense in Brooklyn the way, say, Jason Garrett once made great sense in Dallas.

Garrett was an Ivy League-educated quarterback, a coach’s son, and a longtime NFL backup who everyone seemed to agree made “the room” smarter. Bingo, let him lead the American team.

Nash was a Hall of Fame quarterback in his sport, a quick conductor who set up offenses and smashed defenses with relative ease. Bingo, let’s give him a whistle, a whiteboard and the services of two global talents.

Although Garrett had something that Nash did not have at the time of his big promotion – significant experience as an assistant – he was, like Nash, a pleasant man who on many nights seemed to have won a fan contest. radio to train the team of your dreams, which appears more like a witness than a participant.

Garrett survived in this mode for 9 ¹/₂ seasons, but it doesn’t look like Nash is so lucky with the Nets. In fact, if Brooklyn is kicked out of the first round of the playoffs by Boston, even Kevin Durant’s imprimatur might not be enough to buy the sophomore coach a third season — assuming Durant is still a believer.

The biggest NBA playoff mismatch so far is Nash against his former Nets assistant Ime Udoka, the Celtics’ rookie head coach and a man who learned the trade under Gregg Popovich. Udoka absolutely ran a defensive clinic in those first two games. The last time a Boston-area coach pissed off a franchise player the way Udoka pissed Durant off, Bill Belichick was throwing the kitchen and bathroom sink at Peyton Manning in the early 2000s.

Steve Nash reacts during the Nets Game 1 loss to the Celtics.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

After the Celtics turned a 17-point Game 2 deficit into a seven-point win and a 2-0 series lead on Wednesday night, Durant said it was up to him to figure out how to score against the wave. relentless of long, active bodies that Boston is throwing at him. Kyrie Irving said it was up to him as a point guard to help make the game easier for his teammate.

While it was good to hear this express responsibility for the most important players, it is the responsibility of the head coach to put them in position to succeed. Nash said he wanted to study the tape and “try to help these guys, try to help them improve and give them new ways to attack.” Of course, he should have found a way to help his guys in the second half, long before he got on the bus.

He also should have spent part of his post-game press conference fighting for Durant and the way he is defended. Referees usually give superstars the benefit of the doubt when opponents treat them like void tackles, and yes, Durant had 20 free throws in Game 2. But there’s no way Phil Jackson or Pat Riley or ( name your great coach) would have watched the Celtics grab and shove one of their center players for two games without campaigning for more whistles in front of cameras and microphones.

Ime Udoka
Ime Udoka
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Nash said at that press conference that his team’s intensity dropped in the second half, which was an indictment of his own work. How on earth can a team lagging in a playoff run lose intensity — while holding a double-digit lead — in one of the most hostile environments in the league? And another question:

How can Nash justify his lack of adjustments in the game by saying that there is no guarantee that a potential adjustment would have worked better than the strategy that was already failing? God’s goodness.

Steve Nash (right) speaks with Kyrie Irving (left).
Steve Nash (right) speaks with Kyrie Irving (left).
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It’s clear that Udoka has what Irving called “treasure chest keys” when it comes to attacking his old team. He has institutional knowledge about the Nets that Nash doesn’t have about the Celtics, but that’s a lame excuse for how this series has gone. Nash has more experience as a head coach, and he has at his side one of the 15 greatest players of all time and one of the most dynamic point guards the sport has seen. That should be enough for a 1-1 series heading into Saturday night’s Game 3 at Barclays Center.

But Nash has Durant and Irving in an 0-2 hole instead. Kenny Atkinson, the man Nash replaced, would have had that series at 1-1. Udoka would have made that streak 2-0 for the Nets, just like he does for the Celtics.

In fall 2020, on the same KD podcast that Irving said of Nash, “I don’t really see us having a head coach”, Irving also said of him, “You understand why he can co-exist with us. Because we don’t need someone to put their training philosophy on everything we do and change the wheel.

Now it’s officially time for Steve Nash to change hands. You don’t have to be a great strategist and a great motivator to be a great NBA head coach, but you have to be one or the other. The masterful leader must finally choose a path to the goal, otherwise.

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