Net Maven

Former NBA Scout says ‘Kyrie Irving’s next step is to model game after James Harden’

Brooklyn's PG needs to emulate Houston's playmaker.

Former NBA Scout Bryan Oringher spent four years full-time traveling with the Washington Wizards as Head Video Coordinator and the 17-18 season conducting regional advanced scouting for the Raptors and Hawks. If there’s anyone who has a keen eye for talent and understands X’s and O’s as well as film breakdown, it’s Oringher.

A University of Maryland graduate, Oringher spent his first two years at school working under head coach Gary Williams before joining the Wizards as an intern for his final two undergraduate years.

Nets Insider sat down with Oringher to discuss Kyrie Irving’s transition to the Nets culture as well as Kenny Atkinson’s system. The key for Irving’s success, according to Oringher, will be the former Celtics’ ability to check his ego at the door and make some simple adjustments to his game.

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“Until KD is back, I think it’s very similar to what Boston had last year: Kyrie surrounded with a pretty good supporting cast,” said Oringher of Irving’s situation in Brooklyn. "They had Brad Stevens who’s regarded as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the league. He’s a guy who’s not afraid to jump on guys at times and Kyrie didn’t appear to respond really well to that type of coaching.It seemed like they really weren’t on the same page for most of the season. I think Kyrie needs to be held accountable and he needs to allow himself to be held accountable. I think Kenny Atkinson has done a great job, but it’s kind of a whole different ball game when you have to coach a guy with a big ego, a proven star, who comes in there as a max guy. I hope he’s willing to take the coaching and accept that Kenny has to help him become a little more efficient, become like Harden a little more who shoots threes and drives to the rim; to simplify his game a little bit. Focus on playing defense and that end of the floor for sure. He’s a fiery coach at times and tries to be demanding with guys, but is Kyrie going to fully respect him and buy in and allow him to coach that way? It’s ultimately up to Kyrie.”

The Nets have had All-Star point guards over the years: Kenny Anderson, Jason Kidd, Devin Harris, and Deron Williams to name a few, but none have been an interesting mix of championship experience to go along with his fair share of baggage. Irving has yet to prove that he can “the guy” to command a huddle and lead his team. Things didn’t exactly pan out for him in Boston after he allegedly forced the Cavaliers hand to trade him prior to the start of the 2017-2018 campaign.

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— Rick Laughland (@ricklaughland) July 24, 2019

The track record isn’t pretty, but Irving is stepping into a solid culture with the Nets, his childhood team by the way, so if there was ever a place for it to work, it would be in Brooklyn. Again though, skeptics, including Orinhger, point to Irving’s lack of fire last year with the Celtics as an indication that history could repeat itself with the Nets.

“At least the public perception seems to be that you know Kyrie had a few issues last season with his competitiveness and leadership, and the intangible side of things,” noted Oringher. “You don’t really know for sure unless you’re on the inside, but I definitely have some question marks about his ability to lead and I think D-Lo seemed a pretty great job with that team last year and keeping everybody together and on the same page. You know it remains to be seen especially without KD for that first season, how good of a job Kyrie can do having his own team. It’s basically what he had in Boston and that team blew up around him. He’s an intriguing personality and it’s going to be interesting to see how it comes together.”

One interesting scouting comparison that Oringher drew was between former Net DeAngelo Russell and Irving. While Nets fans were split on the team’s decision to move Russell to sign Irving, the fact that Kevin Durant was part of a package deal, it put fans’ minds at ease. The former NBA Scout shared his thoughts on comparing Russell’s basketball talents to that or Irving’s, and found more resemblances than differences in their respective games.

“There are definitely some similarities between the players,” said Oringher. ‘”Both have a pretty unique skillset of being able to hit deep threes off the dribble on pick and rolls. There’s not a huge list of guys-the [Damian] Lillliard’s, the Steph’s [Curry] obviously—beyond that there’s not a ton of guys that can hit threes off the dribble.”

“D-Lo is a little bit of a better pick and roll passer and playmaker, Kyrie is a little better in terms of mid-range, being able to get his own shot, having a little post-up game, a little more creativity in that way. Defensively they're both kind of a mixed bag.”

Training camp is nearly upon us, and it will be fascinating to see whether Irving shows a willingness to learn and evolve in Atkinson’s system while mentoring others in Durant’s absence.

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