Analysis: Escaping the Irving saga makes Nash a big winner

Nov 1, 2022, 3:00 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2022, 4:43 pm
Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash laughs with Kevin Durant (7) during the second half of the team's NB...

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash laughs with Kevin Durant (7) during the second half of the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

              Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash asks for a timeout during the first half of the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
            
              Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash laughs with Kevin Durant (7) during the second half of the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Steve Nash got paroled.

That’s the easiest way to say it. Some will say fired, and the official term used Tuesday was that Nash and the Brooklyn Nets agreed “to part ways,” which is the popular phrasing these days when a coach leaves a team.

But the reality is this: He’s free.

Whatever happens next in the never-ending string of Kyrie Irving developments won’t be taking up Nash’s time. The Earth can be flat. Alex Jones can be right about conspiracy theories. Links to antisemitic movies can be shared with millions of followers. The merits of vaccines can be debated.

Not Nash’s problem anymore.

This was never going to work in Brooklyn, and the signs were there long before Nash’s first game. Irving made a podcast appearance in the fall of 2020, while the bubble season — the one that Irving railed against and wouldn’t join — was still going on at Walt Disney World. On that podcast, Irving offered up that the Nets didn’t really need a head coach and that it could be “a collaborative effort” between himself, Kevin Durant and others.

For 99% of the players in the NBA, that statement would be considered wild.

It’s just another entry on a long list of Irving stories.

Irving, it seems, is understanding how deeply his tweet and comment last week hurt some people. He and the Nets announced Wednesday night that they would each donate $500,000 “toward causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.”

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Irving said. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

Among some of what Nash had to deal with during his short tenure with the Nets: the failed attempt to turn Irving, Durant and James Harden into a Big Three; the failed attempt to turn Irving, Durant and Ben Simmons into a Big Three; Irving missing most of last season because he wasn’t vaccinated; Harden getting traded; Simmons arriving but not playing last season; Simmons playing this season but not scoring; a slew of other injuries; Durant wanting a trade this summer before backing off that request; and now, the latest Irving saga.

For now, that distraction is in the hands of Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn, who became the eighth coach that Irving has played for — Ime Udoka could soon become the ninth. The Nets’ answer to this circus will, apparently, be to go hire Udoka from rival Boston after he went to the NBA Finals last season but was suspended this season for having an inappropriate relationship with a female Celtics employee.

The Nets must love drama. Maybe that’s why they wanted to part ways with Nash. Too boring and stable, perhaps.

“Steve Nash is a good friend of mine, so more than anything, I feel for Steve,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “I think he has all the qualities to be a brilliant coach. Brilliant. But it was a good reminder to me and I think to all coaches that we are all at the whim of players, front offices, ownership. You really need a solid situation in which to thrive as a coach in this league.”

Irving will be a free agent this summer. There’s no way to predict how that will go.

He has incredible talent. He may be the best ballhandler in the game, probably one of the best to ever play. An absolutely elite player, an NBA champion, a perennial All-Star. His skill cannot be argued.

Yet it’s just impossible to imagine a team committing major money and many years to Irving ever again. Even if he apologizes for sharing the link to antisemitic content — Irving, for the record, insists he supports all people, all races, all religions — the damage may have really been done this time.

He may have fared better had he quickly followed Meyers Leonard’s example.

Leonard was with the Miami Heat in March 2021 when, while streaming himself playing a video game, he used an antisemitic slur. Leonard insisted he didn’t understand the meaning of the word, apologized almost immediately, got fined $50,000, was admonished by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, was told by the Heat to not be around the team and got traded a few days later.

Leonard might not get back to the NBA because of injuries. But he has partaken in multiple acts of contrition — volunteering with Jewish youth, meeting with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, holding camps, speaking to groups, and he’s done it all with no intention of any of it publicly getting out. He didn’t want to look sorry. He wanted to show he was sorry.

Irving didn’t quickly back down. He made a bad situation worse before Wednesday’s announcement, made in conjunction with the Nets and the ADL. And now the Nets will start over with a new coach, plus with some members of the fan base so turned off by Irving that they wore “Fight Antisemitism” shirts to a game this week.

Irving saw those fans. He spoke to them. One of those fans told the New York Post that the shirts weren’t for Irving, but rather for the Nets. They want them to act.

A day later, Nash was gone. That probably wasn’t the action they wanted.

This isn’t what Durant signed on for, though the two-time champion in Golden State did ask for Nash to be fired during the offseason. Instead of being part of a title contender, Durant has been part of exactly one playoff series win in his Brooklyn tenure. At 34, he doesn’t have an unlimited number of title chances left. It will surprise no one if his trade request reappears later this season, or this summer.

It will also be no surprise when another controversy pops up in the next few weeks over something Irving said or tweeted. And when that happens, at least Nash won’t be caught up in it all.

___

Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

South Korea's Son Heung-min warms up during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the g...
Associated Press

Ghana readies for South Korea after opening World Cup loss

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ghana coach Otto Addo has been impressed with Son Heung-min ever since he coached the South Korean forward at the youth level. The two will be reunited on Monday when Ghana meets South Korea in a World Cup Group H match at Qatar’s Education City Stadium. Atto was an working for […]
1 day ago
Mexico's Jesus Gallardo reacts at the end of the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina a...
Associated Press

Goalless Mexico on brink of World Cup elimination

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Mexico’s inability to score — or stop Lionel Messi — has put the team on the edge of missing the knockout stage at the World Cup for the first time since 1978. Mexico has gone without a World Cup goal for 384 minutes since their second group stage match at the […]
1 day ago
Serbia's Dusan Vlahovic, right, and Brazil's Thiago Silva, go for a header during the World Cup gro...
Associated Press

After 1st-round defeats, Cameroon, Serbia need World Cup win

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After failing to score and losing their opening games, both Cameroon and Serbia need their strikers on target when they meet Monday at the World Cup. “The highest level is unforgiving,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said after his team’s opening 1-0 loss to Switzerland. “We no longer have any room for […]
1 day ago
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot his side's opening goal...
Associated Press

After latest milestone, Ronaldo eyes World Cup glory

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Another game, another personal milestone. For all the turmoil that has surrounded Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of what is likely to be his final World Cup, the Portugal great continues make his mark. On Thursday he became the first man to score in five World Cups. Earlier this season he registered the […]
1 day ago
A fan of Argentina reacts after Argentina's Lionel Messi scores his side's opening goal against Mex...
Associated Press

Argentina riding emotional rollercoaster at World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — As Lionel Messi struggled to hold back his tears, Pablo Aimar let them flow on the bench. Covering his hands with his face, Argentina’s assistant coach, the former player who Messi idolized as a child, was almost hyperventilating with emotion after the goal that kept alive the Albiceleste’s World Cup journey. […]
1 day ago
Stanford head coach David Shaw stands near the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college f...
Associated Press

Stanford coach David Shaw resigns after Cardinal finish 3-9

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Stanford coach David Shaw resigned Saturday night after finishing his 12th season at his alma mater with a 36-25 loss to BYU that dropped the Cardinal to 3-9. Shaw, 50, led Stanford to five double-digit win seasons, with three Pac-12 titles and Rose Bowl appearances in his first six years as […]
1 day ago
Analysis: Escaping the Irving saga makes Nash a big winner