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?
Obviously, Kidd is the best player to put on a Nets uniform during the franchise's NBA history. His 6 1/2 seasons in New Jersey were nothing short of sensational, as Kidd transformed the Nets from a laughingstock into a team that advanced to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons.
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.