The Trail Blazers should give Kenny Atkinson a new opportunity
Kenny Atkinson was a popular head coaching candidate last offseason but had to settle for an assistant position with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Atkinson began his coaching career as the protégé for decorated coaches Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenholzer. He spent four years in New York from 2008-2012 as an assistant for the Knicks before scheming for the Hawks until 2016.
He was then given his first opportunity as head coach for the Brooklyn Nets. There, he took over a roster doomed for the lottery. He was handed the wheel to a train already derailed by the infamous Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade.
Still, Atkinson showed his promise as an offensive mastermind and developmental coach, improving on his record in each of his first three seasons.
His masterpiece came in the 2018-2019 season when he led a young roster sporting D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen to a surprising 42-40 record, earning them the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. That was a 14-win improvement on their previous season and a 10-win difference from their preseason prediction by ESPN buff Kevin Pelton.
It seemed that Atkinson was finally about to get his first real chance with a championship-caliber roster when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving came to the boroughs, but his luck fizzled when his new star players ran him out of town.
Atkinson has proved that he has the chops to pull the very best out of his roster. If he can grab a sixth seed with DLo, LeVert, and Dinwiddie, imagine what he could do with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell.