Brooklyn Nets: Jason Kidd
NEW YORK -- Let's play the "What if?" game.
Today's question: What if Jason Kidd had stayed in Brooklyn?
Kidd is thriving in his first season as head coach of the upstart Milwaukee Bucks. He's quickly instilled a winning culture in Milwaukee, and the young Bucks are poised to make the playoffs -- assuming they can hang on to one of the bottom three spots in the East -- after accumulating just 15 victories a year ago.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker (torn ACL), Khris Middleton and recent acquisition Michael Carter-Williams all possess All-Star potential. A boatload of cap space and plenty of first-round picks -- including two in 2017 -- only bolster the franchise's bright outlook going forward.
“I think it’s just being patient,” Kidd told reporters Friday night in Brooklyn before his team's triple-overtime loss 129-127. “Understanding that we’re in a process of building a team with a group of young men. I had a veteran ball club last year that understood what it took to win, and they showed that by getting to the second round.
“So this is a young group that hasn’t been there as a team, but we played the San Antonio Spurs the other night, and they’ve played over 500 games I think -- some of those guys. So it takes time, I think. It’s a process. And there’s no better time than right now for us learning as a group what it takes to be successful in this league.”
Kidd probably won’t win coach of the year. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer and Golden State’s Steve Kerr appear the clear-cut favorites to battle for that honor. But given all the injuries his team has had to overcome, Kidd has certainly put himself in the conversation. The Bucks are 4-11 since trading for Carter-Williams, though they have been playing better of late.
All that being said: What would’ve happened if Kidd had never made his failed power play for control over player personnel and been traded to the Bucks in exchange for a pair of second-round picks?
And remember, there are only two ways that wouldn’t have happened: (1) If Milwaukee had never been in the picture in the first place, or (2) Kidd had received the dual general manager-coach role he coveted.
1. If Milwaukee was never in the picture, Kidd would’ve had to make peace with Nets GM Billy King. Kidd has said that King wanted him fired in December 2013, when the Nets got off to a slow start in Kidd’s first season as head coach. The Nets ultimately righted the ship, though, utilizing a small-ball lineup with great success after Brook Lopez got hurt.
“Did I want to be traded?” Kidd said prior to his first game back in Brooklyn in November 2014. “I think once [the Nets] OK’d the talk to Milwaukee, that just showed, whatever you want to call it, rumors or no rumors that they wanted to fire me in December had to have some legs.” King has vehemently denied this. Regardless, it’s very possible that if the Nets had gotten off to another slow start in 2014-15, King might have tried to replace Kidd.
If Kidd were in the GM role, as well, he could’ve decided to go in another direction in the offseason. Getting younger and more athletic was certainly a priority of his. Several personnel decisions might have been handled differently. Kidd also would’ve been the face of the franchise -- his reputation never tarnished -- though a lot of that was self-inflicted given the way he left.
2. Kidd would’ve had to figure out how to properly utilize Lopez. The Nets struggled with Lopez in the lineup under Kidd before he got hurt. He’s a dominant scorer in the half court but has a tendency to hold on to the ball. As a result, the offense can stagnate. Maybe the two could’ve made it work. Maybe Lopez would’ve come off the bench. After all, Kidd came to trust Mason Plumlee, and it stands to reason that Plumlee would’ve received a lot of minutes. Or maybe Kidd would’ve hoped to trade Lopez for a player who better fit his one-in, four-out system.
3. The Nets would’ve known Kidd’s system at the beginning of the season and probably wouldn’t have gotten off to another slow start as a result. Lionel Hollins is their fourth coach in three seasons. Obviously, it’s tough on players having to learn new system after new system. If Kidd were still in the fold, players would’ve known what to expect. Kidd was also a players’ coach, a direct contrast to the no-nonsense, old-school Hollins. Hollins had to deal with some early-season strife between himself and his players. The Nets still aren’t playing consistent basketball for 48 minutes either.
4. Kidd would’ve had to overcome the loss of Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, too -- assuming they all left. That would’ve been extremely difficult. All three players were integral in Brooklyn’s turnaround under Kidd. So much leadership and toughness would’ve been lost. But Thaddeus Young seems like the type of player who would’ve thrived under Kidd, who probably would’ve gotten the most out of the 26-year-old’s youth, athleticism and versatility.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say how things would’ve played out differently. But with Kidd enjoying so much success in Milwaukee, it’s easy to wonder.
“We haven’t done anything yet. ... We’re just at the starting line,” Kidd said of the Bucks. “And, hopefully, we can end this marathon with a trophy at the end.”
NEW YORK –- Larry Brown says Kentucky could make a run for the playoffs if it played in the Eastern Conference.
But Deron Williams and Jason Kidd –- whose teams reside in the East and are in the playoff race -– beg to differ.
“Making the playoffs? Playoffs!?” Williams said in a Jim Mora-like tone, according to the Bergen Record. “There’s no way. I wish they would come in here. They’re really good. They are really good. Don’t let me take anything away from them. But that’s just crazy.”
The Nets and Bucks faced off against each other on Friday night in a game that had East playoff implications. The Nets are chasing the eighth and final spot in the East while Milwaukee has been trying to hang on to sixth place.
Brown -- who has won championships at the college and pro level –- is a walking encyclopedia of basketball with decades of experience. So when he said that he thought the undefeated Wildcats could make the playoffs in the East, the SMU coach turned some heads.
“I think they'd honestly make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference if they were in the NBA," Brown said of the Wildcats, who are loaded with McDonalds All-Americans and could have two lottery picks in the NBA draft in Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Kidd and Williams, though, know what it will take to make the playoffs in the East right now.
Like Nets coach Lionel Hollins, Kidd initially declined to comment on Brown’s take. But when asked again, Kidd talked about the step up from college to the pros.
“They are young,” Kidd said of Kentucky. “They have had a lot of success and have a chance to win the national championship but there’s a lot to the NBA than ... there’s men in this league, too.
“They do have a lot of talent which they’ll be in here [the NBA soon] to find out very quickly. But could they make the playoffs? I don’t know about that.”
The Nets trailed eighth-place Boston by two-and-half games for the final spot entering Friday night’s games. Brooklyn desperately wants to make the playoffs and knows how hard it is to make up ground in the East despite the disparity in winning records between the East and West.
“It sounds good,” Williams told reporters. “Could they [Kentucky] win a game at some point in the season? Yeah. I’m saying they could probably win a game. Maybe. Once, twice.
“When you have a team full of 18-, 19-year-olds it’s just completely different. You’re going to catch a team tired one night, on a back-to-back, four games in five nights, then they could give them a run. But making the East?”
Cue Mora's infamous "playoffs?" rant.
Wednesday began with Jason Kidd on a stage in front of Milwaukee Bucks’ banners and retired jerseys as he was introduced as head coach wearing a Bucks pin on his suit jacket.
Hours later, the Brooklyn Nets began the process of picking up the pieces after a sudden divorce with Kidd by taking their first major step in moving on with the hiring of Lionel Hollins to be their new coach.
It was a strange and surreal day for the Nets. While the Nets were finalizing a deal with Hollins, Kidd sat beside Bucks owners at his introductory news conference in Milwaukee, discussing Milwaukee’s future without answering questions about what led to his departure from the Nets.
“This is business,” Kidd explained during the televised news conference of how he ended up in Milwaukee. “I think [Nets general manager Billy King] said it best. It's business, and that's what it comes down to."
Now Kidd is gone to Milwaukee. And as one Nets source described it, the past several days for many team employees have felt like returning home, only to discover your spouse is gone with no warning or note.
The Nets and Kidd are like one of those celebrity dream couples that seemed happy in public, only to have their breakup splashed all over the gossip magazines not long after a glitzy wedding, with not much more than a PR statement saying the two had parted ways.
“Well, if I read all you guys and watch on TV, it's panic,” King said in a news conference on Tuesday. “It's pandemonium. The earth is falling. No, it's a bump. It's a big bump. But it's something that we've got to overcome.”
Kidd’s sudden departure happened at one of the most inopportune times for a general manager -- smack dab in the middle of the draft and free agency. Not exactly the best time to have to start a coaching search, while trying to keep a veteran core built to win now together.
King acted fast, almost as if the Nets were ripping a Band-Aid off a fresh wound. The GM says that he first learned of Kidd’s request for control over basketball decisions last Wednesday. King traded for three second-round picks on draft night on Thursday with Kidd sitting in the Nets’ war room. By Friday, Kidd had permission to talk to the Bucks, and on Saturday night, news first leaked of Kidd’s impending departure.
The Nets and Bucks negotiated compensation for Kidd, who was a Buck by Monday.
“On Wednesday, it was only a very small, small group that knew,” King explained. “A few more people knew, I guess, Friday. ... So it just really started for a lot of people Saturday ... When I found out on Wednesday, maybe in the draft room [on Thursday], there was probably maybe two people that knew in that draft room.”
As the two teams worked out a compensation package of two second-round picks, several employees in the Nets organization returned to work on Monday still absorbing the news.
Some knew that Kidd and King’s relationship was strained over philosophical differences, as described by sources. But many sources said it wasn’t considered to be a power struggle, and it wasn’t something obvious, especially after how the Nets turned things around to make it to the second round of the playoffs.
“I’m going to keep my personal feelings,” King explained. “At this point, there’s no point to throw it out there. It’s over and it’s done with. My personal feelings, my family knows. ... There’s no reason to sling any mud here. It happened. I wish Jason and his family well.”
On Wednesday, Kidd was asked if he was trying to get more power.
“Is there a power outage in Brooklyn?” Kidd cracked to a handful of reporters after the press conference in Milwaukee. “I think they have a good president, I think they're in good hands.”
"Brooklyn is a special place," Kidd added, according to the New York Daily News. "So this was hard to do, but when you look at the business side -- which happens to a lot, not just with players but coaches, too -- that gets in the way. For me, I have to do what's best and this is what I think is best for me."
Kidd may never fully explain his side of what transpired or why he left. But as a player, Kidd always looked three or four steps ahead when surveying and assessing the future and the best possible situation for him to accomplish his goals.
“Whatever he felt he needed to do, he did,” King said sitting at a table not far from Kidd's No. 5 Nets jersey banner, which hangs in the team’s practice facility. “And [what] ownership did, they did.”
With Mikhail Prokhorov and his trusted executives putting their belief in King, the Nets general manager began the process of trying to keep business moving as usual during the draft and free agency, while parting with one coach and hiring a new coach.
The impact of Kidd’s departure won’t be known for some time. We may see how it affects Paul Pierce’s decision to re-sign with the Nets or go someplace else, either via sign-and-trade or signing for less money than the Nets can offer to go play for a contender such as the Clippers. We also will see how it might potentially factor into Kevin Garnett’s decision to return for a final season under contract.
Shaun Livingston -- whom the Nets wanted back but could offer only the $3.3 million mini midlevel to, left for a three-year -- $16 million deal with the Warriors.
King, though, has a new coach on board, something that few could have predicted just a week ago. King has more pivotal decisions to make in the next few weeks.
It remains to be seen whether the Kidd debacle will be merely a speed bump to overcome or a massive road block for the Nets.
“The organization's got to be bigger than one person,” King said. “If you sit there and say one person leaves and everything comes falling down, then you don't have an organization.
“So we're not where we were like a week ago. But I think we can get back there quickly.”
Kidd is now gone to coach the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets are left to pick up the pieces and figure out who their new coach will be.
This latest Nets soap opera is crazy even by the franchise’s zany standards. Brooklyn’s offseason is off to a tumultuous start but sources say the Nets’ free agency plans remain unaltered despite the Kidd debacle.
Despite needing a new coach, the Nets still plan on doing what they can to re-sign Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston. However, this kind of controversy is the last thing Brooklyn needed heading into July 1 when Pierce and Livingston hit the open market.
The Nets would probably be wise to take their time in picking their next coach. But convincing a winner like Pierce to re-sign with the Nets coming off the Kidd divorce and potentially with no head coach in place by the time he decides appears to be a shaky proposition.
That is why these next few weeks, and the next couple of moves the Nets make, are so pivotal for the franchise. Although their split with Kidd is messy, the rest of the Nets’ summer doesn’t have to be.
It’s absolutely imperative that the Nets find a way to convince Pierce to return. The Nets want to remain competitive this season and they are hopeful that Livingston can be re-signed. But numerous sources believe the starting point guard will command a starting salary of more than the max of the $3.3 million the Nets can offer Livingston per season for three years.
So the Nets really cannot allow Pierce to leave. Think about it. Brooklyn surrendered an arsenal of first-round picks (3) in exchange for Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer. The Nets sacrificed developing young talent and their future for winning now with Pierce and Garnett. That’s why GM Billy King has to make sure Pierce doesn’t end up being a one-year rental.
If Garnett returns for his final season, would you want him back as a part-time player without Pierce there as well? An unhappy Garnett is the last thing the Nets need. Pierce may not have a ton left in the tank either but he can be the glue the Nets need to hold things together at a tenuous time.
The Nets will help their chances by hiring the right coach. Sources have said that Lionel Hollins, Mark Jackson and George Karl are on the team’s radar as possible successors for Kidd. The Nets might also see what’s available in the college ranks but luring away a Billy Donovan or Kevin Ollie is often a difficult and pricey prospect that the Nets may not want to deal with.
In an ideal world, the Nets would be able to hire a coach soon and have that coach talk to Pierce and Garnett about his plans and views before Pierce decides where to play. Having those two on board behind a new coach would make everything smoother.
Mark Jackson best fits the mold of a coach who could command the respect of Pierce and Garnett, having played against the two like Kidd did. But like Kidd, the brash Jackson is also strong-willed and a staunch Kidd supporter. He had the loyalty of the Warriors' locker room by all indications but had his own messy split with Warriors management which could be a deterrent for the Nets.
Nets ownership certainly likes making bold splashy moves like hiring Kidd a year ago. So perhaps they look out of the box. If Jackson could get an interview, he has the personality and charisma to dazzle. But the Nets may find a safer choice such as Hollins more appealing.
The Nets need a leader. They need stability. That’s why now that Kidd is gone, they can’t afford losing Pierce and Garnett too. All indications have long pointed toward a Garnett return and that might remain unchanged despite the recent Kidd development. But does KG, who will make $12 million in his final season under contract, still want to return for a 20th season now that the coach who helped convince him to waive his no-trade clause last summer is gone? My guess is he still will but Garnett and Pierce can’t be thrilled with the Kidd blowup no matter who is to blame for the simple fact that the Nets look far from a model of a stable winning organization at the moment.
The franchise and ownership feels wronged by Kidd’s decision to ask for more basketball control. Kidd has yet to explain his reasoning. Last season, the two former Celtics repeatedly voiced their loyalty and support for the then-rookie coach and that played a major role in Russian ownership sticking with Kidd in late December when multiple sources said King and management suggested making a coaching change. Three sources said that when the Nets were in the midst of a 10-21 start that also saw the demotion of lead assistant Lawrence Frank, many were understandably on edge and the relationship between King and Kidd became strained.
Still, the Nets turned their season around with Pierce playing a big role in the turnaround with his move to power forward after Brook Lopez was lost for the season.
League sources say the Nets, in a perfect world, would like to secure Pierce to a short-term contract starting at $6-to-$8 million a season. They own his Bird rights so they can offer him more than anybody else. If Pierce, who shares the same agent (Jeff Schwartz) with Kidd and made $15.3 million this past season, is turned off by the recent developments and wants to find his way to a reunion with Doc Rivers with the Clippers, the Nets should give him enough financial reason to return.
If the Nets don’t have Pierce’s leadership this coming season, this season could start off even worse than last season’s Cyclone roller coaster-like start.
They have to adapt to a new coach, a new staff and a new system again. Deron Williams and Lopez are both coming off surgeries and the franchise will have to take it very slow with them in training camp and at the start of the season.
If the 38-year-old Garnett returns, he and Lopez will be on a minutes and likely games restriction. Livingston likely won’t be back and Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson also could sign elsewhere. ESPN.com sources reported that the Nets recently revisited trade talks from last season with the Cavaliers involving Jarrett Jack as a contingency plan for Livingston. But sources say Cleveland has put that deal for Marcus Thornton on the backburner. So the Nets may have to find another point guard.
Much of the team’s star core will be either making its way back from surgery or be a year older and slower.
That’s why the Nets need Pierce’s leadership even more to help keep things together.
Kidd is gone. The Nets need to make sure Pierce doesn’t leave too.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s out-of-nowhere news that Jason Kidd’s departure from the Brooklyn Nets appears inevitable after his first season as head coach, I wonder:
Does this stunning revelation tarnish Kidd’s legacy as a Net in fans' eyes? Or do they separate Kidd the player from Kidd the coach from Kidd the person?
He was a human highlight reel, a triple-double threat seemingly every night. And he enjoyed nothing more than beating the hated New York Knicks.
From a fan's perspective, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s easy to forget about all of Kidd’s off-court transgressions, how he clashed with Byron Scott in 2004, which led to Scott’s ouster, and how he allegedly quit on the team by faking a migraine in order to miss a game in 2008.
Kidd’s arrival as coach last offseason only seemed to enhance his legacy. Shortly after announcing his retirement, Kidd was back to save it once more. As part of his deal, Kidd even got to buy a minuscule ownership stake in the team.
A pending DWI charge led to a plea agreement, and then, before his first regular-season game, his No. 5 jersey was sent to the rafters, retired, never to be worn by another Net again.
Kidd convinced ownership to make his former coach, Lawrence Frank, the highest-paid assistant in the NBA. It was going to be the perfect partnership -- until it wasn’t.
Kidd’s Nets got off to a horrible start. Rock bottom came in late November, when Kidd told Tyshawn Taylor to spill a drink on him in order to gain an extra timeout because the Nets didn’t have one. He got caught, and the NBA fined him $50,000 for what became known as “sodagate.”
With his team’s season in turmoil, Kidd’s relationship with Frank deteriorated. In early December, about a month after Kidd called Frank a 13-letter word during an expletive-filled rant, Frank was reassigned, demoted to doing “daily reports.” Their six-year partnership lasted 17 games. Brook Lopez went down with a season-ending injury shortly thereafter. A Christmas beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls prompted Kidd to call out his team.
The Nets stood at 10-21 following a 21-point blowout loss in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve. It was at that point, sources told ESPN NewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk, when GM Billy King suggested to ownership that they make a coaching change. Ownership wasn’t having it. They were going to be patient with Kidd. Their patience would eventually pay off.
On Jan. 2, Kidd inserted Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup and Joe Johnson hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in Oklahoma City. The Nets took off from there, going 34-17 the rest of the way. Twice Kidd was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.
The Nets needed seven games to survive the Toronto Raptors in Round 1 of the playoffs, but they were eliminated by the Miami Heat in five games in Round 2. Kidd’s rookie season as a coach was certainly a rocky one, but it culminated with a finish that gave everyone in the organization confidence that they’d made the right hire.
On Thursday, Kidd said he was going to accompany the team to summer league. The Nets’ website reported that Kidd made videos for unrestricted free agents Paul Pierce, Livingston and Alan Anderson in an effort to convince them to stay.
Then Saturday night happened. Kidd made a power play -- asking for player personnel duties in addition to his role as head coach. Ownership said no. All of a sudden, Kidd had received permission to talk to the Bucks about taking a position in Milwaukee. The two teams had begun discussing compensation.
“I don’t think Kidd will be back,” a source told ESPN.com.
How quickly everything changed. How quickly Kidd became a lightning rod for criticism again. This time, it appeared, he put it on himself.
I’m curious if fans think the recent revelation about Kidd tarnishes his legacy. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they don’t care.
Either way, I’d like to know.
If Jason Kidd leaves, in stunning fashion, as widely expected, the Brooklyn Nets could go in a number of directions.
But only one direction makes sense: With a win-now roster, the Nets need to hire a win-now coach.
Brooklyn native Mark Jackson, George Karl and Lionel Hollins, candidates ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk and ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported the team would be interested in, all fit that description.
It would be up to one of those guys to help convince Kevin Garnett that he needs to keep playing and Paul Pierce that he needs to stay.
Pierce, 36, will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Nets can pay him more than any other team because they hold his Bird rights, but a reunion with his former coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles could be extremely appealing. Pierce and Kidd are both represented by power agent Jeff Schwartz.
The Nets already have $88.5 million committed to nine players, so they have far exceeded the salary cap. As a result, they need to keep Garnett and Pierce, since they cannot replace them with comparable talent.
Jackson, Karl and Hollins all seemingly have the accolades and pedigree required to garner respect from the likes of Garnett and Pierce, who are both headed to the Hall of Fame once their prolific playing careers are over.
Garnett and Pierce may not have much left in the tank, but they provide so much in the form of defense and leadership.
Shaun Livingston, who had a career season, is also an unrestricted free agent. The Nets have been bracing for his departure because they cannot pay him as much as other teams. Livingston proved to be a key cog in the team’s turnaround after he stepped into the starting lineup in 2014. Livingston is also represented by Schwartz.
Garnett, Pierce and Livingston all loved playing for Kidd, who helped persuade Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to come to Brooklyn and pushed for management to sign Livingston.
Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are all owed massive amounts of money. Nets GM Billy King is expected to at least gauge what type of return Williams and Lopez could fetch on the trade market, but both players are coming off surgery, which diminishes their value.
Ultimately, the Nets may be better off without Kidd, who had just completed his first season as coach. Plus, they are expected to be compensated by the Bucks in some form assuming he does leave for Milwaukee.
However, Brooklyn would be worse off without Garnett and Pierce -- even with both players being in the final stage of their careers.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nets go with an out-of-left-field candidate. After all, they have done it before by hiring Kidd.
The Nets took a chance by bringing in the best player in franchise history, and it blew up in their faces. Kidd’s No. 5 jersey hangs in the rafters at Barclays Center, and he holds an extremely minuscule ownership stake.
If Kidd were to stay, it would create an awkward dynamic between himself and King, given that Kidd pushed to have more power than the GM.
The Nets need to get this hire right -- and it needs to be a win-now coach for their win-now roster.
Kidd, they felt, was waving the white flag too soon.
The Nets went into the fourth trailing by 13 after Williams banked in a 29-footer at the buzzer.
Kidd sent out a lineup of Shaun Livingston, Marcus Thornton, Mirza Teletovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Mason Plumlee to begin the final period. The Nets coach hoped his reserves would make a decent dent in the double-digit deficit, but they didn’t. Livingston (9:31) and Kevin Garnett (1:16) were the only starters to appear in the fourth.
“I wanted to get those guys -- the starters -- a break, get them some rest,” Kidd said. “And when we went with that group -- the reserves -- I felt that that group could make shots but also get some stops and get it to where it’s under 10, and then go from there, but it never happened.”
Here’s how the starters responded when asked about Kidd’s decision:
“Of course we’d love to get back out there. But that was Coach’s decision,” Williams said. “He probably just felt like 20 points is tough to overcome at that point in the game. But as a player you definitely want to be out there.”
“You know, Kidd’s making the decisions,” Pierce said. “We’re sticking with him all the way through. We’re trusting him.”
Added Garnett: “Jason Kidd told me to sub in for Mason. And then he subbed me out. Following directions, dog. Following directions.”
The Nets had just come off a grueling seven-game first-round series with the Toronto Raptors. They flew to Miami following their Game 7 victory in Toronto on Sunday, then had one day to rest before taking on the two-time defending champions in Round 2.
Kirilenko said he felt like the team’s “engine just stopped” in the third quarter, when Brooklyn was outscored 33-23, and what was once a close game turned into a blowout.
“Can’t use that as an excuse,” Garnett said. “We are here, and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Question: What did you think of Kidd’s decision? Let us know in the comments section.
One of them, according to an NBA scout who spoke with ESPNNewYork.com, is their offense.
It’s not a bad offense, by any means; the Nets ranked 13th in efficiency in 2014.
It just doesn’t have a lot of variety.
“A lack of sophistication on offense, a lack of constant motion at times will hurt them at some point down the line. It may not be this series [against Toronto], but at some point the simplicity of their offense is going to catch up with them,” the scout said.
Since going to a smaller lineup, Jason Kidd’s Nets are intent on exploiting mismatches.
The main way they do that is by predominantly running what’s called “splits action” -- which was originally created by Rick Adelman and very similar to what Kidd’s former coach, Rick Carlisle, runs in Dallas.
Two wings are down by the corner 3 and two bigs are up each elbow by the foul line. The point guard can then pass the ball to one of the bigs before screening for the nearside guy in the corner (the side he passed to).
The key to this action is to get the ball in the middle of the floor in an effort to create options. It makes the defense choose between giving up a relatively open look to a shooter or making the defense susceptible to a lot of back cuts. It’s basically pick your poison between a slightly open 3-pointer or giving up a layup.
“They are constantly looking to post up their guards through splits action or a pick and roll, typically with two smalls,” the scout said. “It’s either through one of their three guards or [stretch forward] Paul Pierce. They’re just trying to get smaller guards switched on to one of their bigger guards for a post-up.
“They’re counting a lot of times on Joe Johnson being the guy in the post or teams fearing that and sending a second man at Joe. He then kicks it out and they can swing the ball around the perimeter to get an open look at a 3-pointer.”
“In the playoffs, often times your first look gets taken away, so you have to be a bit more creative,” the scout added. “When you don’t run a lot of complicated sets and actions, it becomes easy to defend. The Nets are going to lose if they can’t get a matchup in which Joe has a distinct size advantage in the post. If the defense doesn’t come and help, it’s going to be awful tough backing down a guard [of similar size].”
This is where Kidd has to adjust and get creative.
“I think his game, as a whole, is maybe underappreciated because he plays both ends. And he’s played hurt. And he hasn’t complained,” Kidd said.
“Publicly, maybe he’s said maybe too much in the sense that he lost confidence, but you can see that he’s playing at a very high level and he plays both ends of the floor, which as a coach and as a teammate you couldn’t ask for more from your point guard.”
Williams had said in early February: “[My confidence] is not at my highest. It’s been tough being in and out of the lineups, missing two weeks here and there [because of ankle injuries], I feel like I get my legs back in shape, get back in shape and then just do it all again.”
After getting the necessary rest and treatment on his ankles, Williams has been a force since the All-Star break. He came into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves averaging 17.4 points, 5.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.7 turnovers per game over that span (20 games), while shooting 47.8 percent from the field -- 37.3 percent from 3-point range.
With Sunday night’s game in Dallas hanging in the balance, Andray Blatche failed to box out Samuel Dalembert on two occasions (with 1:11 left and 44 seconds left). Even more inexplicably, Blatche fouled Dalembert both times, resulting in the Mavericks center going 3-for-4 at the free-throw line. Dalembert’s last two freebies gave Dallas a 91-87 lead.
On Brooklyn’s ensuing possession, Kidd drew up a play for Paul Pierce to get to the rim -- and he did, earning two free throws. Pierce made the first.
Following that make, Kidd elected to sub Alan Anderson for Blatche ... meaning that 6-foot-7 Paul Pierce would be playing center! The rest of the lineup? 6-foot-7 Joe Johnson, 6-foot-7 Shaun Livingston, 6-foot-6 Alan Anderson, and 6-foot-3 Deron Williams.
The Nets turned their season around by playing “small ball” or “long ball.”
But there was a method to Kidd’s madness.
Allow him to explain: “We felt like Paul could play the 5. Why not? We’ve put him at the 4, so we were going to try him out at the 5. That’s something we’ve talked about doing, but we all have to come in and rebound. We had Paul in our switching group out there. That helped us get some stops.”
Pierce made the second free throw. Now, it was time to get a stop.
The Mavericks ran an isolation play for 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. Livingston, five inches shorter, drew the defensive assignment. With Anderson threatening to double Nowitzki and Livingston playing excellent 1-on-1 D, Nowitzki took one of his patented turnaround, fallaway one-legged jumpers. He air-balled the shot. Johnson caught the rebound.
Then it was time for this “small” lineup to execute on offense.
Livingston brought the ball up the floor and handed it off to Johnson.
Last 10 seconds of a game in which the Nets are tied or trailing by three or fewer points?
Gotta go to Iso Joe. Gotta go to "Joe Jesus."
Johnson immediately took the ball to the left wing. Anderson (left corner), Pierce (right wing) and Williams (right corner) were all available and more than capable 3-point threats.
The floor was spread. Johnson had more than enough room to operate. He blew by Shawn Marion with a left-handed dribble, gathered himself and then laid the ball in the basket to tie the game at 91 with 9.9 seconds remaining.
Make Johnson a perfect 7-for-7 on shots taken in the above scenario over the last two seasons.
The Nets would win the game in overtime, making a winner out of Kidd on his his 41st birthday in his return to the Big D.
Kidd has become known as a coach that trusts his instincts and players. If one of them gets hot, Kidd isn’t afraid to play that player in crunch time. On Sunday night, it was Marcus Thornton, who scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Rookie Mason Plumlee? Huge contributor with Kevin Garnett out. Ten-day guy Jorge Gutierrez? Thrown into the rotation, because why not?
Defensively, the Nets threw everything but the kitchen sink at Nowitzki, forcing him into a 2-for-12 shooting night. Kidd admitted the Nets “got lucky.”
Sort of. Nowitzki did miss several open shots. But the Nets also mixed up their coverages on him, sending double-teams, switching and contesting as many of his shots as they could.
Livingston, Pierce, Mirza Teletovic, Johnson and Blatche all guarded him at some point in his 12 attempted field goals.
“Defensively, guys were switching, were able to keep the ball in front of them and taking the 3-pointers away there in the second half was a big part of our success,” Kidd said. “Our defense didn’t break, it might have bent at times, but we got steals and came up with big stops when we had to.”
The Nets are now 10-2 in March. Yes, the rookie coach might just get his second Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award. And it’s unorthodox decisions such as the ones he made on Sunday night that are paying off and leading to wins.
Question: What do you think of the job Kidd has done?
In case you missed it: "Joe Jesus" delivered again, while Andrei Kirilenko got hurt -- again.
Where they stand: The Nets (37-31) are 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors (39-30) for first place in the Atlantic Division and one game behind the Chicago Bulls (39-31) for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Up next: The Nets face the New Orleans Hornets in the second game of a back-to-back set on Monday night at Smoothie King Arena.
Back on the road: The Nets (36-31) went 3-0 on their three-game homestand, and have won 11 straight games at Barclays Center. But now they’re back on the road, and tipping off a three-game trip in Dallas. Brooklyn has an away record of 13-20. The Nets, though, are 9-2 in March. Kidd was drafted by the Mavericks and won his only championship as a player there in 2011. Wonder if Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will fire a couple more shots at Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
D-Will goes home: Deron Williams grew up in suburban Dallas. The Mavericks courted him in the summer of 2012. We know how that went. We know what their owner said. Anyway, Williams should have plenty of family and friends at the game, and he’ll probably be motivated. Last season, Williams had 31 points in Brooklyn’s victory in Dallas. In his previous three games, Williams is averaging 19.7 points and 6.0 assists on 65.6 percent shooting. The Nets are plus-38 with him on the court in that span.
Dirk and the Mavs: The Nets beat the Mavericks by one on Jan. 24. Containing Dirk Nowitzki is going to be key, and it’s going to have to be a team effort. Nowitzki is averaging a team-high 21.5 points per game. Dallas likes to take a lot of 3-pointers, so Brooklyn is going to have to close out and run them off the arc.
The Nets have not played a home game since Feb. 12.
“As I’ve always said, I’m not worried about the reaction,” Kidd said Saturday night following Brooklyn’s 107-98 victory in Milwaukee. “I think they will support a Net. He’s been a Net before, and I think they’ll be excited to have him, but the big thing is him being able to help us defensively, and being the good character person that he is.”
Collins, who became the first active openly gay player in NBA history last Sunday when he signed a 10-day contract with the Nets, played eight second-quarter minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks because rookie Mason Plumlee got in early foul trouble.
“He taught Mason how to foul tonight. So I gotta keep him away from Mason,” Kidd joked.
Collins enjoys his role as a mentor.
“Definitely. ... [I remember] with ZaZa Pachulia, my teammate in Atlanta, showing him how to guard Dwight Howard. That was one of the reasons we were able to beat Dwight when he was with Orlando my second year there in the playoffs,” he said.
“It’s important as a veteran to share what knowledge I have with the younger guys. When I was a young guy, I learned from Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. It’s a cycle. Now that I am that old man at the end of the bench, that veteran, even though I might not be playing minutes, there still are ways that I can definitely help the team win.”
Since joining the Nets, Collins has made his impact felt both on and off the court. His No. 98 jersey is currently the top-selling jersey on NBAStore.com.
After Thursday night’s game in Denver, he met with the parents and brother of the late Matthew Shepard. Collins wears No. 98 in honor of Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime.
The NBA announced Friday night that it is donating all proceeds from Collins’ jersey sales to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Collins’ 10-day contract expires Wednesday, so the Nets will have to decide whether to give him another 10-day deal, sign him for the rest of the season or let him go. Based on what has happened so far, and assuming he doesn’t get injured, it would be a major surprise if they decided not to keep him around.
Collins made his Nets debut in Sunday night’s 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, playing 11 effective minutes off the bench.
“As we were putting together the team from the beginning of the season and needed bigs Jason brought his name up. Then as we signed other guys, there was not a need,” King said on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” Monday morning.
“And then as we were going through the season, [coach] Jason [Kidd] talked about our interior defense. When Kevin [Garnett]’s not out there, he’s our anchor. When he’s not, we have Mason Plumlee who gets the rookie whistles, so he gets a lot of quick fouls, and some of our guys are not as good at interior defense, so we had been looking for someone, and Jason’s name had always been surfaced there. We tried to do [an upgrade] via trade before the deadline, and obviously wasn’t able to get that done.
“Knowing on this trip that we were going to have a back to back with L.A. and KG most likely may not play, the goal was if we didn’t find someone (by the deadline), we’d probably need to bring someone in, and with Jason being in L.A. we had worked him out during the All-Star break, it was the right time and the right fit for us.”
King said ownership had no problem with the decision to add Collins to the roster. Mikhail Prokhorov is known to be supportive of gay rights in-spite of the anti-gay laws that were just passed in his native Russia. Prokhorov declined comment through his spokesperson, though it’s clear that he supports Collins.
“I bring up players that we’re looking to acquire, and [ownership] asks for my thoughts and input, ‘What’s Jason think?’ And then they say, ‘OK, if you guys think it’s good, let’s go for it,’ King said. “It was a ‘We’re thinking about this,’ and ‘OK, sounds good.’ It wasn’t a lengthy political debate.”
King said Kidd discussed it with the veterans on the team. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson are all former teammates of Collins.
“Jason had had some conversations with the veteran guys before the All-Star break, just broaching the idea with them and getting their thoughts on it,” King said. “I had spoken with ownership just to get their thoughts. We went at it with the thought process to make the best decision for the basketball team and everybody involved. So this conversation had started before the break, and then that’s when we worked him out after the break also.”
Said Pierce: “In a society we live in, this was going to happen eventually. This is the normal. He is a guy who is going to open the door for athletes. Maybe not just in America but all over the world, the sports world. That’s going to be key. It doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexuality, or any of that. It’s about being part of a team. It’s about caring for one another. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. ... It’s great to have him here to open the doors for so many athletes to feel comfortable to come out and not be embarrassed and to be part of something.”
Despite all the media attention it’s received, King reiterated that the decision to add Collins was for basketball reasons, not marketing reasons. The Nets needed an interior defender, and that’s just what the 35-year-old center gave them Sunday night, doing a nice job defending Pau Gasol after Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche got in early foul trouble.
King confirmed that the Nets did in fact pursue Glen “Big Baby” Davis before turning to Collins once Davis committed to signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and reuniting with his former coach, Doc Rivers.
From tie-wearer to tie-less.
From 10-21 to 11-4.
From “Sodagate” to the “Lawrence Frank fiasco” to “the hot seat” to Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for January.
“I look forward to what the future brings as a coach,” Kidd said Tuesday on ESPN NewYork 98.7 FM’s “The Michael Kay Show” when asked if he’s in this for the long haul. “I’m excited about my new career.”
His team got off to an abysmal start, but he kept preaching patience and process -- even as the injuries, losses and stories he was in over his head piled up.
“People took shots at me when I was a player, and I didn’t think that was going to change when I became a coach,” Kidd said. “I love the opportunity to coach the Brooklyn Nets. I enjoy coaching. I’ve got a great group of guys, so it won’t be the last time people take shots at me, but I wanna do what’s best for the Brooklyn Nets and those guys that are playing.”
Things began to change following a Dec. 31 blowout loss in San Antonio: the year, Kidd’s wardrobe and the lineup.
With Brook Lopez lost for the season due to a broken foot, Kidd decided to commit to playing small ball (or long ball), inserting Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup, and moving Paul Pierce to power forward and Kevin Garnett to center.
On defense, Kidd preached “active hands.” He wanted his big men up on pick-and-rolls.
It all worked. Efficiency-wise, the Nets went from 18th and 28th on offense and defense, respectively, in 2013 to 13th and 10th in 2014.
The Nets, once without an identity, now have one: A slow-paced veteran team that wants to execute in the half court on both ends of the floor. They are having fun and playing with confidence.
In January, Kidd's beard began growing in Brooklyn. So too, did the coach and team.
“His aggressiveness, his assertiveness,” Livingston said. “I think with the lineup, with the planning, especially game-planning for teams, the way we match up with teams, and teams have to match up with us as well. He ran the point-guard position. He sees it out there and I think him being more vocal has helped us as well.
“Because even though we have leaders on our team, we still look at him as the leader when it's time to get a play call or time to get a stop. What are we doing? Are we switching? What’s the game plan? So he’s done a great job. You’ve got to give him his credit.”
Added Pierce: “I mean, he’s getting more comfortable. It’s his first year ever coaching. Day in and day out, you become more at ease with it and I think he’s starting to settle in to what it takes to be a head coach.”
Other rookie coaches may not have to deal with the scrutiny that comes from being in the New York media market and the expectations that come with having a $180 million roster, but Kidd doesn’t mind.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said. “This is a perfect situation for me.”
Question: What do you think of the job Kidd has done?
In case you missed it: Shaun Livingston has proved to be quite the bargain.
Up next: Practice Wednesday (weather permitting).
Following one of his team’s blowout losses, Brooklyn Nets first-year coach Jason Kidd received a call from owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
The Russian billionaire’s message to the future Hall of Fame point guard turned coach: You’re not on the hot seat. Don’t believe what you read. Ignore the critics. You’re my guy.
“I didn’t know I had any critics,” Kidd joked to reporters in London following his team’s 127-110 blowout victory over the Atlanta Hawks Thursday at The O2 Arena.
Easy to say when you have the full support of your owner -- and your team is firing on all cylinders.
Prokhorov may not be as patient as James Dolan -- so says the New York Knicks owner, anyway -- but he has remained patient with Kidd. And that patience is starting to pay off.
But it’s not just about the calendar change or the lack of neckwear.
For the first time all season, the Nets are playing cohesively on offense and tenaciously on defense, dictating pace and dominating the opposition with their smaller lineups.
“Mikhail is the best,” Kidd said. “He’s got a great sense of humor, but he wants to win, and everybody that’s wearing a Net uniform or is employed by the Nets, we all want to win. We might not have gotten off to the start that we wanted, but it’s a process and the biggest thing is from our owners to our players, no one panicked. And we feel that we’re getting better each day and we’ve still got some room to grow and get healthy and see what happens.”
Prokhorov’s Nets came into the season with a projected $190 million payroll and championship expectations. But they got off to a 5-14 start, and Kidd quickly came under fire, his rookie coaching season stained by his decision to re-assign assistant Lawrence Frank to doing “daily reports” and “soda-gate.”
And who could forget about all the injuries? Brook Lopez done for the season. Deron Williams consistently hampered by ankle injuries. Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry missing significant time.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce looked shot. Furthermore, the team lacked energy and effort on a nightly basis.
One scout told ESPN Insider David Thorpe Kidd was “the worst coach in the NBA.” Another told Bleacher Report, “he doesn’t do anything.”
Just a season ago, Avery Johnson was fired following a 14-14 start.
He was the guy the team’s Russian ownership group pushed for despite being just weeks removed from his retirement following a 19-year playing career. The guy they believed in. The guy they were going to stick with through thick and thin.
“What is more important is that Jason Kidd is being more and more comfortable. And what is important is he has the support of the players,” Prokhorov replied when asked about the difference between Kidd and Johnson.
Kidd ripped into his team following 17-point home loss to the Chicago Bulls on Christmas. Six days later, the Nets were whooped by 21 in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve.
But they’ve lost just once since. And over the past two weeks, they rank eighth in defensive efficiency and 13th in offensive efficiency.
Kidd’s systems are starting to take shape. Joe Johnson is playing like an All-Star. Garnett and Pierce look rejuvenated. Reserves Shaun Livingston and Mirza Teletovic have stepped up to play prominent roles. Kirilenko has been such a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.
“It’s always great to have support from the top guy, from our owner,” Kidd said. “But I think we’re all on the same page that we want to win. There’s a process, and you can see the team is starting to play better since the New Year, but when you hear those words, they’re always encouraging. But it’s more about those guys in the locker room, and those guys are playing at a high level right now.”
The Nets may not be on the level of the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers, but they just might be the third-best team in the Eastern Conference when this 82-game regular season is all said and done.
Then, as both Prokhorov and GM Billy King pointed out, anything is possible.
And why not think that way -- especially given the way their coach is coaching and their players are playing.
How much did that phone call have to do with it? Who knows. But it couldn’t have hurt.
“I told him about a very famous Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, who said, ‘Don’t read Soviet papers before breakfast,’ ” Prokhorov said. “In other words, don’t pay any attention to what they are writing about. Just keep doing your job.”