- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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“He's going left,” Kidd said Tuesday -- an obvious joke about Jefferson, who likes to drive to his right.
Kidd and Jefferson, longtime Nets teammates in New Jersey, are reunited Tuesday as they face each other for the first time as coach and player in Brooklyn.
“I’m excited for him,” Jefferson said before the game. “I will go give him [a hard time] and then it comes back to business. I made a joke, now he is the rookie and I’m the vet. That is something that I kind of enjoy.”
Kidd practically raised Jefferson from a raw but athletic rookie to a player whom the Nets signed to a $78 million extension in 2004. In their more than six-and-a-half seasons together, they went to two consecutive NBA Finals, made six consecutive playoff appearances and won four Atlantic Division titles.
“I remember shooting up at the basket by the wall [at the Nets' practice facility] and my first year there were no banners,” Jefferson said recently, when asked about Kidd’s jersey being retired. “Not one. Then the second year, there was a conference championship banner and it looked weird because it was solo. Then all of a sudden, we got six banners.”
Jefferson likes to joke with Kidd that the Nets' coach needs to mention his name whenever he is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, since a good chunk of his 4,620 assists while with the Nets came via Jefferson baskets.
“I was joking about going left,” Kidd said with a smile, about his scouting report on Jefferson. “You talk about a great teammate seeing his growth as a teammate and as a player, he made the game easy for me. He was always out on the right side looking for the ball so he could get a layup or free throws.
“I am happy to see him still playing at a high level. He is a veteran now and he has been on the successful side, so he can help the young guys over there.”
Jefferson said it’s too early to tell how Kidd will do as a head coach, but he believes the Nets will be exactly where they want to be at the end of the season.
“We got 82 games to figure it out,” Jefferson said. “We can make all the assumptions they want. George Karl won Coach of the Year and got released last year. You can be a great coach and the situation might not be right.
“There are guys that keep getting multiple opportunities and don’t deserve them,” Jefferson continued. “Jason Kidd is a guy that is going to work extremely hard to prove that he deserves the opportunity that was given to him. He is a guy that succeeded in every opportunity that has been given to him. I don’t see why [coaching] should be any different.”