While Steve Nash will be back for a second season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, he will return without some of his most trusted assistant coaches next to him. Perhaps adding a mind like Steve Clifford to the mix might be enough to overcome what has been a very turbulent offseason.
Offensive mastermind Mike D’Antoni chose to leave his role as an assistant for a consulting gig in New Orleans, and defensive-minded assistant Ime Udoka was named the next head coach of the rival Celtics.
The Nets were already a team that had to overcome a lack of defense on this roster, and losing their best defensive mind in Udoka is not an ideal situation. At the very least, Brooklyn added a similarly-sharp mind in that department as a consultant, which should go some way towards helping.
The Nets hired Clifford, who was fired after a disappointing season as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, as a coaching consultant. While he never brought an NBA team deep into the playoffs, his statistics during his pro career show that he is without question one of the better coaches in the game when it comes to generating productive defense.
Steve Clifford could help the Brooklyn Nets defense.
While the Nets have quickly replaced their departed assistant coaches with some splashy hires like the much-hyped David Vanterpool, Clifford’s input will be invaluable to a team looking to improve upon a defense that cost them in the postseason. After all, he has a history of turning bad defenses around instantly.
Clifford started his NBA coaching career with a five-year stint in Charlotte that lasted from the final year of the Bobcats to the first four seasons of the new-look Hornets. Mike Dunlap won just 21 games with the league’s second-worst defense in 2012-13, and Clifford had them winning 43 games with the fourth-best defense the year after.
After three consecutive Top 10 finished in points per game with Charlotte were followed by two down years, Clifford helped construct back-to-back top-five defenses in Orlando before injuries and a lack of talent around him helped contribute to a very poor season from the Magic.
The Nets clearly believe that the offensive trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, paired with Nash’s offensive mind, is strong enough to get this team to the promised land, and they are doing everything that they can to make sure the defense doesn’t fall behind.
With the exception of Blake Griffin, most of Brooklyn’s offseason moves have focused on improving the defense. Bruce Brown was retained, Day’Ron Sharpe was drafted in the first round, and DeAndre’ Bembry was brought over to defend the perimeter after a brief stint with Toronto.
The Nets are also counting on some young players to step up, as Jevon Carter and Nicolas Claxton will likely be entrusted with key defensive roles considering the fact that some of Brooklyn’s starters can be eyesores on that side of the ball. Who better to help coach them up than someone of Clifford’s caliber?
Harden, Durant, and Irving might as well mean that the Nets start games with 70 points on the board. The key to taking down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks lies in being able to secure the paint, and Clifford arriving on this coaching staff sounds like the exact secret ingredient the Nets need.
Clifford won’t be as hands-on as Udoka was, but it’s never a bad idea to get more qualified coaching minds in the room. With Nash clearly an offensive mind that is at his best dictating his version of D’Antoni’s offense from his Phoenix days, adding Clifford next to Vanterpool and Jacque Vaughn, even just part-time, should be an immense help.