All the Brooklyn Nets need now is Shawn Marion and the Phoenix Suns band will be back together again.
I’m not saying that Marion will suddenly come out of retirement and suit up for the Nets, but rather he should join head coach Steve Nash’s staff after the recent hiring of former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni as an assistant coach. Earlier, Amare Stoudemire finally hung up his jersey and also joined Nash’s coaching staff in Brooklyn.
Nash’s hiring last September already drew a lot of criticisms, since he doesn’t have any previous coaching experience and leapfrogged a number of assistant coaches who have toiled on the sidelines for years. It also didn’t help that the former two-time regular season MVP is white, which didn’t bode well for supporters of minority hiring.
The D’Antoni hire just came out of left field for me. Sure, the main proponent of “7 second or less” is Nash’s former head coach in Phoenix (2004-2008) and with the Los Angeles Lakers (2012-14) and just left the Houston Rockets a few months back. His coaching credentials are unquestionable as he’s a former Coach of the Year winner and has had a storied over 20-year NBA coaching career, but him serving as chief lieutenant to a former player could ultimately result in a power struggle in the borough.
And that would be unfortunate as the Nets are a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference with all-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving onboard. While Durant missed all of last season due to an Achilles tear he suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors and Irving played only 20 games (including all of the games in the Orlando bubble) due to various injuries, Brooklyn will be at full strength this year with the Dynamic Duo joining the young and improving core of Caris LeVert, Jarret Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris.
D’Antoni was thought to be going to the Philadelphia 76ers until NBA champion coach Glenn Rivers (he can’t be called “Doc” anymore because there could only be one “doctor” in Philly) became available after he was fired—err, amicably parted ways—with the Los Angeles Clippers. It would’ve been a perfect fit for D’Antoni with the 76ers as weeks after his departure from H-Town, the 76ers hired his old boss, Daryl Morey, to serve as the team’s president of basketball operations.
The Morey-D’Antoni partnership in the City of Brotherly Love would’ve been interesting as the proponents of “small ball” would probably make a Philadelphia Experiment by creating their own version of the Monstars. Why not, since they already have 7’0” Joel Embiid, 6’10” Ben Simmons, 6’9” Al Horford, and 6’8” Tobias Harris starting for them. I’d say trade relative Lilliputian 6’6” Josh Richard back to Miami in exchange for 6’11” Kelly Olynk and Morey-D’Antoni will finally get to play “giant ball.” Just imagine Embiid starting at center, Horford at power forward, Olynk at small forward, Harris at off guard, and Simmons at point. Sure they’d be slow and plodding, but good luck getting shots in the paint and getting rebounds from these ogres of the hardwood.
D’Antoni going to Philly instead of going back to New York (he did coach the Knicks from 2008 to 2012 and brought forth Linsanity) would’ve also add more fuel to the rumors that the Rockets are willing to trade James Harden to the 76ers in exchange for Simmons. Although that would ultimately ruin my Monstars lineup, pairing Harden with a top-flight center like Embiid would be ready-your-popcorn level fun to watch (as if the harden-Dwight Howard partnership paid any dividends).
Ultimately, I bet D’Antoni only stays a season or two in Brooklyn until another Coach of the Year awardee gets the axe and another coaching vacancy opens. At the very best, I hope he bequeaths his entire offensive playbook (not defensive playbook because he has none) to Nash and see Durant, Irving, and company flourish in a faster “5 second or less” system. At the very least, I hope he convinces Irving that the Earth is not flat.