Did the Lakers really hire Jason Kidd to recruit Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Plenty of heads turned when the Los Angeles Lakers insisted that their new head coach hire Jason Kidd as an assistant. Although it was part of the reason why the team couldn’t come to terms with Tyronn Lue to become their next head coach, their final choice, Frank Vogel, isn’t worried.

Still, it brings up an interesting question: If the Lakers liked Kidd so much, why didn’t they just hire him to be their head coach?

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According to Newsday’s Steve Popper, that might have a little something to do with Kidd’s recruiting ability.

Although the idea seems very far-fetched, one source told Popper that he thought Kidd was brought to LA to attract his former player Giannis Antetokounmpo in two years, when the Bucks star hits unrestricted free agency.

There are plenty of reasons to doubt this bizarre rumor, but there’s no doubting the Lakers are thinking through every decision on how it will impact their ability to pair LeBron James with another star. So far they’ve tried to land, among others, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler to no avail.

Did Giannis even enjoy playing with Jason Kidd?

Yes, Kidd coached Antetokounmpo for three and a half seasons, but were they actually enjoyable? This almost seems like a company trying to recruit someone by telling them that their ex could be a co-worker.

Kidd inherited Antetokounmpo after he only averaged 6.8 points per game in his rookie season, and the Greek Freak nearly doubled his scoring in the following year. By Year 3 under Kidd, Antetokounmpo became an All-Star when he reached 22.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Still, his Milwaukee Bucks never finished better than 42-40 or made it out of the first round of the playoffs. It wasn’t until Kidd was fired midway through the 2017-18 season and they hired Mike Budenholzer that the Bucks truly hit their stride.

Under Budenholzer, the Bucks have flourished with a league-best 60-22 record, and Antetokounmpo has blossomed into the MVP favorite. With more confidence than ever in his three-point shot, Antetokounmpo has become a complete player with career highs across the board: 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.

Kidd may have helped Antetokounmpo take off, but Budenholzer has allowed him to truly fulfill his potential.

Jason Kidd coached Giannis Antetokounmpo for parts of four seasons in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Jason Kidd coached Giannis Antetokounmpo for parts of four seasons in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Will Giannis want to leave the Bucks?

The idea of hiring Kidd to land Antetokounmpo is even more wild considering the timeline, as assistants don’t always last two years under a head coach. So much could change in the NBA landscape in that time.

The Bucks are two wins away from the NBA Finals and will certainly be in contention again next season. If they win a title and are able to re-sign Khris Middleton, would Antetokounmpo really want to leave? Fans and media have long thought that Kevin Durant wouldn’t have joined the Golden State Warriors if he beat them in the 2016 Western Conference finals.

But even if Antetokounmpo does choose to leave the Bucks for greener pastures and brighter lights, the Lakers may not be the best landing spot for him. The Warriors have long been rumored to have interest in the All-Star forward and have a much more solid foundation.

Furthermore, as NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman pointed out, Antetokounmpo has even explicitly said “I could never see myself being out there” in LA.

Shoot your shot, Lakers.

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