- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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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."
A little more than a year ago, the Nets rolled out the red carpet at Barclays Center to trumpet the return of Kidd to lead the franchise he will forever be connected to and direct it back to the NBA Finals, this time as a coach. It felt like Kidd had come home for good.
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.
During his news conference, King remained positive and thanked Kidd. He said he looked at the sudden falling out as “business.”
“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.”
4dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo