When the Dallas Mavericks visit the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, it will mark the first time that Nets head coach Jason Kidd will face the team he led as its point guard to an NBA championship in 2011.
Kidd's departure from the Mavericks in the summer of 2012 wasn’t on the best of terms. Kidd had verbally committed to re-sign with Dallas, agreeing to a three-year, $9 million deal, only to change his mind and accept the same offer from the New York Knicks. After one season with the Knicks, Kidd retired as a player, then went to Brooklyn to be the head coach.
There was a mixed response from the remaining members of the 2011 championship squad about to the level of awkwardness that may come from seeing their former point guard in a new look.
“Definitely,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said in response to whether it would be weird to see Kidd as a coach. “It’s been weird seeing him in a suit.”
Once he was done deadpanning, Nowitzki went on to give praise to his former teammate.
“I’ve played 16 years with a lot of guys. If there’s one guy that could (coach), it is J-Kidd. He was the coach on the floor.”
Shawn Marion had two different stints with Kidd as a player, once from 1999 through 2001 as members of the Phoenix Suns and from 2009 through 2012 as members of the Mavericks. He knew that Kidd was made to be a head coach.
“He’s a floor general,” Marion said. “He’s a true point guard. He knew when to slow it down and run a play. He had a sense of the game. He recognizes everything on the floor. That’s what he was supposed to do as a point guard.
“I’m very happy to see him (coach). He’s going to do well with it.”
It didn’t start out well for Kidd, who started his coaching run with the Nets with a 3-8 record. With the league’s highest payroll, pressure was starting to mount and questions were popping up in about whether Kidd was ready to handle the spotlight and responsibilities that come along with coaching a team like the Nets.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn’t shocked by the turnaround the Nets have had and isn’t shocked by the fact that Kidd made the jump into coaching so quickly.
“I’m never surprised by anything in this league,” Carlisle said. “A lot of things about it made perfect sense. At this point, it’s pretty clear they did the right thing hiring them. He’s doing a fantastic job. Early, they just had a lot of health problems. That’s just hard.”
Health and cohesion have done a lot to turn things around as the Nets have the league’s best record since Jan. 1 at 8-1. Based on that, Dallas has its hands full with the Nets and their coach.