DeAndre Jordan had some choice words for the rumors that his friends and resident superstars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, helped orchestrate Kenny Atkinson’s ouster.
“Whatever the reports are, [they’re expletive],” the Nets center said defiantly.
Told about the widespread reports, Jordan — who got only his fifth start of the season as interim coach Jacque Vaughn made his debut on Sunday — pushed back, questioning the source and the motivation.
“They’re just trying to get in the locker room, make it a thing about guys who aren’t even here, you know, playing, who are getting healthy,” he said. “No offense to you guys, but I don’t care what the media says about our team. We know what’s going on here and where we want to be, and this is just something to divide us as players and as an organization.”
Still, it remains a puzzle. Atkinson is well-respected around the NBA and helped pull the Nets out of the Eastern Conference cellar after being hired in 2016.
“I was definitely shocked,” Jordan said of the Atkinson news. “I thought Kenny did a great job with us.”
Then there’s the idea that the front office wouldn’t have pulled off such a move if it hadn’t gotten the OK from Durant and Irving.
Finally, on Sunday, Vaughn started Jordan, whom both Durant and Irving lobbied to join them on the Nets when they signed last year.
Jordan had 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in nearly 29 minutes. Jarrett Allen had 11 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.
Vaughn said the decision was a combination of things.
“The combination of, analytically speaking, how he and Wilson Chandler give us defensive rebounding, some presence at the rim, the combination of those two guys,’’ he said. “Then I think you also look at the overall aspect of what it does to the second unit, with Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Chris Chiozza. The ability to play faster with that second unit, we want to see that as a coaching staff.”
Coming into Sunday, Jordan, 31, was averaging 8.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 21.8 minutes. Allen, 21, was averaging 10.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes.