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Brooklyn Nets’ Slow Start Puts Coach Steve Nash Under The Microscope

Brooklyn Nets’ Slow Start Puts Coach Steve Nash Under The Microscope

With 10 minutes left in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving found himself on an island, trying to front the bigger and stronger Rui Hachimura in the post.

It proved to be a losing battle.

The Wizards spread the floor, swinging the ball and pulling help defender DeAndre Jordan into no-man's land, as Hachimura was able to catch a pass from Russell Westbrook, separate from Irving and finish an easy, uncontested two-handed dunk.

Following the defensive breakdown in the team's switching scheme, Irving looked around as if to say, “C'mon guys. Let's get it together.”

Forty-eight seconds later, Irving again found himself underneath, unable to prevent an easy bucket from the similarly bigger and stronger Thomas Bryant.

The final straw came at the 7:38 mark, when Hachimura caught a lob pass over Joe Harris for another easy left-handed slam, prompting a clearly upset Irving – not his first-year coach, Steve Nash – to call timeout.

Nash has elected to pocket most of his timeouts in favor of letting his team play through mistakes, but Brooklyn needed to talk it over after making a plethora of mistakes on D, and Irving was right to signal for a stoppage in trying to flip momentum.

“Kyrie's getting posted up on the switches, and he's probably thinking to himself, 'That's bulls—t,'” one NBA scout opined.

The Nets are just 1-4 in their last five games, and have allowed 113.2 points per 100 possessions over that span, which would qualify for the 25th-best defense in the NBA – including 29th in defensive rebound rate. Their woes on D are what could keep this talented team from making a deep playoff run.

A 3-4 start, coupled with a porous defense, has put Nash – as well as defensive coordinator Jacque Vaughn – under the microscope.

“Disconnect? I don't know what you're talking about,” Irving replied to a question from Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “This is basketball. It's pretty simple.”

“I didn't even see that,” Kevin Durant said of the timeout. “But Steve knows when to call timeouts. He knows what he's doing over there. We all trust him. He's only going to get more comfortable as time goes on.”

On Monday, the Nets received more bad news in the form of Durant having to sit out the next four games after exposure to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Spencer Dinwiddie has also been lost for the year after undergoing total ACL reconstructive surgery on his right knee.

Early adversity is coming fast and furious. Brooklyn has a pair of superstars — who have each won a title — performing at a high level, and that's huge. Still, the team hasn't been able to get results. Nash has the backing of the man who hired him, Sean Marks, as well as the man who endorsed the hire, Durant. They all knew it was going to be a process for a first-year coach to implement his system without a proper training camp and preseason (and a lack of practice time).

Even so, expectations are sky-high, and this two or three-year window is championship or bust. As such, hiring Nash was always going to be a risk. Top assistant Mike D'Antoni, who excelled with Nash running point guard in Phoenix and James Harden running point guard in Houston, was brought in to aide his former player.

Offensively, the Nets have looked potent, with Durant and Irving given mostly free reign to utilize their immense talents. Combined, the duo has managed to miss three late-game shots – including a pair before the final buzzer on Sunday night.

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