Can Kenny Atkinson handle Nets big talent, and even bigger egos?

Rick Laughland

Kenny Atkinson is well-liked and well-respected across the league. Whether it's by players, coaches and front office staff, he can do no wrong.  Yet, even the veteran coach hasn't had this embarrassment of riches of type nor this type of ego to manage in his entire coaching career. 

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are arguably a top 3 duo in the NBA right now, and while the Nets will have to wait for No. 7 to heal from an Achilles injury, the team is primed for deep playoff runs. 

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The question still remains about Atkinson's ability to adapt his coaching style to two of the highest IQ players in the NBA. The former Hawks assistant has a penchant for being demanding of his players and being direct and often assertive when critiquing them both in the film room and practice court. 

Atkinson, for the most part, has avoided openly criticizing his players in the media, but that tactic is a surefire way to irritate his two franchise players. Durant and Kyrie, while they were mostly smiles at media day, have historically had a rocky and sometimes icy relationship with the media. 

Atkinson admitted that he's going to have to check his own ego at the door as he is coaching two of the most experienced and cerebral players in the game. Calling out his first and second year players during practice may have worked well for his last year, but this season looks to be a different type of squad.

Irving and Durant are the locker room leaders and Atkinson can't risk brusing their egos to send a message to the rest of the team. 

So how does a coach hold his two best players accountable, while making sure not to create a divide in the locker room?

It's not easy, but Atkinson seems to have a grasp of what he needs to do to command respect from his players, but also step aside when the alpha dogs of the team want to implement something. 

It will be a fascinating dynamic that will play out this year in Brooklyn, and if anyone can adjust his coaching style and leadership style to best suit his team, it's Atkinson. 

As we all know, even the smallest sign of disagreement that gets leaked to the media, will push the narrative that Irving and Durant are more "me" guys than team guys. 

Nets fans are hoping for the latter as Atikinson formulates how he can raise the bar for a Brooklyn squad that overachieved this past season. 

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