MIAMI—Steve Nash has lived through the shenanigans that make the NBA so delightfully dramatic during his 18-season Hall of Fame career and most recently, in his two-plus seasons as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets
That’s why this past summer, when the Nets were seemingly engulfed in near daily drama surrounding two of their stars, Nash’s initial reaction was something along the lines of, “Yeah, OK. What’s new?”
He patiently sat it out, waited for the next episode to begin and knew that, in terms of theatrics that go with the 24/7/365 coverage of the league and its marquee players, a whole lot of old is new again.
“I think, from the outside, it can be such a hot issue and everyone can dramatize it,” Nash said of the summer-long controversy that centred around all-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “From the inside, this stuff happens all the time throughout the league. We kind of have short memories and then we get right into the next drama.
“For me, it was always like this is part of the NBA, this happens all the time. It has happened in the past. It was just … we just needed to sit down at some point. That was it. (And) that’s kind of what happened.”
The Nets’ off-season ran the gamut of current day NBA drama. Durant asked to be traded, or so the story went, and then wanted Nash and Nets general manager Sean Marks fired before he would return. Irving and the Nets couldn’t come to an agreement on a long-term contract that would include a games-played clause and eventually he opted into a deal that will make him a free agent next summer. Durant settled his beefs after a sit-down chat with Marks and Brooklyn owner Joe Tsai and all was right in the world.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse watched from afar with a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I attitude. He has known Nash for more than 20 years, counts him among his friends and, while Nurse has never had to deal with the public spats Nash has, the Raptors coach could feel for his colleague.
“When it’s a guy you know, for sure, you always probably pay a little more attention, when it’s someone you consider a friend.” Nurse said. “Certainly, it’s hard. This job is hard. This profession is hard. That stuff just makes it harder. I think he’s handled it with great composure and class and all that kind of stuff. He’s doing a great job.”
If Nash and the Nets get past any lingering resentment from the summer, if it exists, they have a chance to be an elite team this season. And despite the histrionics of July and August, Nash sees that happening.
“We are a team that needs time,” he said. “We have a real ignition (Ben Simmons) to our team who is coming off a year-and-a-half of non-NBA basketball. We have a bunch of guys trying to learn to play together. But inside our facility we feel really good about what we’re building. The guys have been exceptional.”
One of the most difficult aspects of being an NBA head coach is dealing with off-court issues, personalities and managing stories most teams would prefer to keep in-house. It happens to some degree with every team — there are always agendas at play — and in this age of unrelenting “coverage,” putting out fires is often as big as developing offensive and defensive schemes.
Coaches all know the egos and personalities they must balance and the importance of private conversations.
“You certainly try to do it with the guys, one on one, but then it spills out and then you’ve got to handle some of that as well,” Nurse said. “It’s just part of a very difficult job, I think. You’ve just got to do it. You’ve got to do your job.”
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