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  • Kyrie Irving will join the Brooklyn Nets next season but is it a good fit? The Crossover podcast breaks down the all-star's latest move.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant made the first big moves of free agency when they announced their intentions to sign with the Nets. Irving has been rumored to join Brooklyn since the playoffs and with Durant possibly sidelined for next year, it is going to be interesting to see how Irving fits in with the rest of the team.

On the latest Crossover podcast, SI's Chris Mannix is joined by YES Network and FS1 NBA analyst Sarah Kustok and The Crossover's Rohan Nadkarni to dive into the Nets big weekend and Kyrie's short term fit.

(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)


Chris Mannix: It pays dividends when free agents look at you and say that team is built to win whereas this team just has gobs of cap space. So I think it's a great argument. Now Sarah, when I talked to different executives and scouts about this whole thing working, it always comes back to Kyrie and you and I have had this conversation about how Kyrie might fit in with a team that at least for next year is basically Boston lite. Brooklyn is a young group of guys that achieved some measure of success last year and now you're injecting Kyrie Irving into the mix and the question is will Kyrie accept it and be a positive influence on that team. Or will it be Boston 2.0 where you have Kyrie being a disruptive force and his leadership being as bad as it was in Boston. So let me start with the Kenny Atkinson angle of all this. You know Kyrie Irving, you know Kenny Atkinson really well, how do you see their styles and their personalities meshing together?

Sarah Kustok: I think because I've been around Kenny I've seen how he's related to a multitude of different players. And I say this in a vacuum of Kenny, I have all the respect in the world for Brad [Stevens] and I think he is just one of the absolute best. I say this strictly speaking about Kenny Atkinson. He's got a relatability and a sincerity to him, a genuineness and a fierceness in how he competes but how he loves you as a player and as a person in figuring out ways to get the best out of everyone. And he goes hard at everyone. And so whether it's practices, he treats every single player one through 15 the exact same and I think for Kyrie, I'd imagine there has been conversations... I know Kyrie and Spencer Dinwiddie know each other really well and they've talked about coming there and playing there and Kenny and Spencer have an extraordinary relationship.

I know that there has been conversations heading into this that there should be an expectation of how this is going to work but when it comes to Kenny, it's his ability to recognize and understand how he could make you a better player but also fit into the context of what they're trying to do. In general, I think this is the first time Kyrie is choosing where he wants to be.

This is not through a trade and not through the draft. This is Kyrie saying I have a multitude of options and this is the place where I feel comfortable and it seems like something that he is thought about for a long time and had a good amount of time to see what the roster looks like and I know what you're saying. I think a lot of people make a comparison about Boston and Brooklyn and the rosters and young guys and they've had some success. I don't look at it as apples to apples. Like to me it's not the same type of comparison. You just say 'oh Caris LeVert is like Jason Tatum'. I don't think the rosters are necessarily constructed in the same manner or the understanding of roles or how it all fits.

So I have a high level of optimism that they'll work this out and figure this out. How they would make it work will be under the pretense of this is Kyrie's choice and they are going to make sure to put him in the best position possible to succeed but in doing so it's more about the buy in which it's been for all of these guys and why they've found some success about the buy in of we're gonna do everything that's best for the team.

Rohan Nadkarni: Yeah, I just want to harp on that for a second because I love Kenny Atkinson, I'm a big fan. I think he's one of the most underrated coaches in the NBA now. I know Mannix is part of this Brad Stevens brigade and he wants to you know put up his Twitter pose and whatnot. Well meanwhile you know Kenny Atkinson is here and just the job he's done developing guys like Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. You know they're were all sorts of labels attached to D'Angelo Russell when he got to Brooklyn that were maybe unfair but Kenny Atikinson took that and turned him into an all star.

I'm intrigued to see how this goes forward not necessarily from a tactical standpoint but one thing that is interesting to me is, Kyrie and KD, they're not doing what Kawhi did right? They didn't take their time. They didn't take a lot of meetings. They didn't let teams woo them. That's an interesting aspect of this decision to me. I think in many ways it was smart for them to go to Brooklyn over some of the other teams in the market looking for two free agents. Having said that how long did they carefully consider factors like coaching? That is something in my opinion that has a market inefficiency almost in the NBA, the relationship between superstars and their coaches.

We saw it in L.A. last year, would they have been a better team if LeBron and Luke Walton got along? If Rich Paul wasn't going to be the commissioner of the NBA to complain about LeBron's coach. Durant in Oakland, I don't think necessarily meshed well with Steve Kerr. Obviously they made it work and they had a lot of success but there were times where Durant was even kind of publicly rebutting Kerr. I think if you just look at over the last 15 years of the NBA that the teams that have had the most success even if there was friction they had those relationships between the stars and the coaches, whether it's been Steph and Steve Kerr who are harmonious, whether it was Phil you know finding a way to make Kobe and Shaq work for as long as he did. Obviously Gregg Popovich with Tim Duncan for so long. Those relationships are important.

I'm not saying that Kyrie is a bad guy or Durant is a bad guy or they're uncoachable or whatever. I'm just interested to see what happens because they didn't have that long process where it seemed like 'hey we're weighing Fizdale vs. Atkinson or whatever those conversations ended up being. So I'm kind of interested to see how that plays out.

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