Amid the turmoil of Magic Johnson calling general manager Rob Pelinka a backstabber on national television Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers had the business of introducing their new head coach to attend to.
And so they did.
In a press conference that took place a few hours after Johnson’s “First Take” exposé, Pelinka sat next to new coaching hire Frank Vogel as the pair were faced with some awkward lines of questioning.
Tough questions at Vogel introduction
Pelinka, of course, had to address the elephant in the room and denied Johnson’s claims, calling his former boss’ take “saddening and disheartening.”
But Pelinka wasn’t the only one facing tough questions. After listening to a reporter ask Pelinka about the coaches who turned down the Lakers before he was hired, Vogel was faced with a question about Jason Kidd, his assistant coach whom he reportedly had to bring on board as a stipulation of his hiring.
The Lakers’ reported insistence that Kidd be a part of his staff was one reason Tyronn Lue turned down the job. That combined with a three-year offer — two years shorter than the standard five-year offer veteran NBA coaches expect — was enough to convince Lue to cut off negotiations.
Vogel: ‘Can’t worry about looking over your shoulder’
It raised concerns that the Lakers intended to groom Kidd as their long-term coach, an issue Vogel addressed after he accepted a deal similar to the one Lue turned down.
“I am very good at blocking out noise," Vogel said when asked about the perception of Kidd being his preordained successor. "I have been around this business a long time. I really don't give that a second thought. You can say that about every coach in the league about their assistant coaches. It happens from time to time. I believe if you treat people with the right respect and do the job at the highest level, build an environment of positivity and collaboration, you can't worry about that stuff.
“You can't worry about looking over your shoulder. You got to worry about getting good damn coaches, and that is how I feel about this hire.”
So what’s the deal with Jason Kidd?
Deciphering the reasoning behind the Lakers’ decision-making lately is a tall task. Kidd has done little to prove himself as a desirable head coach in the NBA beyond his name recognition.
He burned bridges with a failed power grab after one season with the Brooklyn Nets that led to him being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks fired him after 3 1/2 seasons in Milwaukee that saw little progress for its young core. Mike Budenholzer has since taken over and led the Bucks to the precipice of the NBA Finals.
Why the Lakers are so zoned in on Kidd is unclear. But since they are so clearly enamored with him, why don’t they just hire him as their head coach?
Kidd’s checkered past
There’s significant toxicity around Kidd with multiple off-court incidents, including a DWI from 2012 following a Long Island party and a 2001 domestic abuse charge in which he admitted to hitting his ex-wife. Teams make public relations decision all the time when it comes to employing players and athletes with criminal histories.
But those issues aren’t fresh, and they aren’t going away in three years. So if they think he’s worth the risk despite those issues, why all the drama about hiring him as an assistant?
None of it makes much sense. Then again, little of anything going on with the Lakers lately makes much sense.
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