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Nets, coach Kenny Atkinson mutually agree to part ways

In a shocking announcement, Brooklyn and its coach will go separate ways in the midst of a playoff race in the East. What does this mean for the Nets?

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts during the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center.  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: This should go over well ... Durant and Kyrie weren’t even factored into the coaching decision, which adds another questionable wrinkle to this saga. Durant was apparently very keen of Atkinson when he signed with the Nets during the offseason. Jacque Vaughn will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

The Brooklyn Nets and coach Kenny Atkinson have mutually agreed to part ways following the team’s blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. This is a very surprising move. The Nets are 28-34, which is a bit below average, but are also the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and well on their way to securing a playoff berth.

It’s also worth taking into account that the Nets have been playing this season without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for a nice chunk. Durant isn’t expected to return at all and Brooklyn is still in solid position to make the postseason. The emergence of Caris LeVert over the past month or so also brings plenty of optimism to a franchise that has title aspirations past this season with two superstars. So why part ways with your coach in March? It’s perplexing, really.

Atkinson will finish his career in Brooklyn 118-190 over four seasons with just one playoff appearance. It’s tough to put it all on Atkinson when he was brought in to help with a rebuild and the team finally was able to lure a few high-profile free agents to town. This could just be a precursor of a move that will align Durant and Irving with a coach they’re more familiar with for next season.

There’s literally nothing but generic PR BS in the statement from the Nets, so not sure what to make of that statement above. Perhaps despite Brooklyn’s decent showing so far this season, the team felt with the current roster it should have been performing at a higher level? Again, I’ve got nothing. Here’s something from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that also doesn’t tell us much:

Atkinson started his career in coaching mostly overseas, but was an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks from 2008-2016 before being hired by the Nets. I’d imagine a team like the Knicks may jump at the chance to bring back Atkinson and potentially stick it to a cross-town rival next season.