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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Starting Five: Coach Kidd settling in

By Mike Mazzeo

From Hall of Fame player to rookie coach.

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.

And to think, Jason Kidd hasn’t even been at his new job for a year, though it sure feels like a decade.

“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).