On Tuesday, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report delivered a pretty stunning report on the shape of the Brooklyn Nets, as run by rookie head coach Jason Kidd. Beck, who doesn’t screw around with sources, quoted an anonymous scout as saying that Kidd had run through a “terrible” start when it came to leading his players from play to play.
“He doesn’t do anything,” said the scout, who has watched the Nets several times. “He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.”
The “incomplete” grade was pretty tactful on the scout’s part considering his previous statements, but it seemed to fall right in line with how most viewed the NBA’s most expensive team, as run by a head coach that was playing in the NBA just six months ago. The Nets are 3-7, and even with that small sample size it’s still worth pointing out just how discombobulated this crew looks both ends.
Kevin Garnett, who is sometimes cold to reporters’ queries and did not speak to media after an embarrassing blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, elaborated on Kidd’s defense on Tuesday to the New York Post. He didn’t exactly exonerate Kidd nor refute Beck’s report while including Kidd amongst those who should be blamed, but he did remind all of us at this is still on the players:
“Dismal. No one’s happy about how we’re playing. No one likes the current state. But everybody’s willing and committed towards changing it. The way you change it is through work, and that’s what we’re doing,’’ Garnett said. “The blame’s on all of us. It’s not just on Jason. You can’t put the [blame] all on him. We’re players who obviously have to be professional, come out here and do our jobs.’’
Paul Pierce, who also declined to speak following Monday’s game, said as much as well:
“As competitors, we’re angry. Nobody likes to lose,” Pierce said. “Everybody in this group that we’re here with are very angry. Nobody’s happy about losing.
“We’ve got to hold everybody accountable: The players, the coaches, this one big group and we’re all in it together, so it’s not only on [Kidd]. It’s on all of us.’’
I don’t like trying to read the tea leaves through my television and NBA League Pass, especially after watching the bulk of Brooklyn’s recent loss to the Indiana Pacers in a bar surrounded by delicious brown ale, but one has to wonder if a competitive spark was missing in the team’s early season attempts at securing wins.
Nothing but bad news came out of the late offseason for Brooklyn, whether it was the embarrassment of Kidd missing the team’s first contests while serving an NBA suspension, or Deron Williams’ ongoing ankle issues, or the discussion about Garnett’s limited playing time that may have chipped away at his pride. These influences, and the doldrums of preparing for what could be a seven or eight month slog, could have contributed to these legends going through the motions.
The team looked listless and uncommunicative on both ends. Williams has never been much of a leader, which is why Garnett, Pierce and the recently-retired Kidd (all lauded for their championship-level work in the leadership realm) were supposed to change things with more possession-to-possession influence. Instead, the team has lost seven of 10, they’re the league’s fourth-worst defensive team, and the offense is well below average.
In the wake of those struggles and Beck’s report, the immediate go-to comparison was made between Kidd’s early struggles, and Golden State Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson’s recent Bay Area turnaround, and the Coach of the Year award that then-Orlando coach Doc Rivers won in his first year with the Magic in 1999-00. Neither had a lick of head or assistant coaching experience entering those gigs, and it hardly seemed to matter.
These comparisons aren’t right, though. And they’re not fair to Kidd, even if he willingly put himself in the crosshairs.
It may not seem like much, but Jackson and Rivers had extensive time away from the game following their playing days; time enough to grab needed perspective and a bit of distance from the players they once worked alongside. Very few contemporaries from Rivers and Jackson’s era as active players were still working in the league when they took over in 1999 and 2011, and that means quite a bit when you have to attempt to amp up players that you’re less than a year away from fist-bumping at center circle prior to divisional games between Kidd’s former Knicks team, and the Celtics and Nets.
Rivers and Jackson weren’t exactly burning the midnight oil in keeping up with the league during their deserved time off, Rivers only did occasional color analyst work for Turner Sports, and Jackson even walked away from a YES Network gig as Nets analyst so he could take on the easier role of a once-a-week job with ABC/ESPN (after attempting both for a season), but that time away may have allowed them to be looked at as a leader from a different generation by the players they coached.
Whereas the Nets, like many of us, probably still see Jason Kidd and wonder why he’s wearing a suit.
It’s early. And a novice like Kidd should be listening to assistants Welch and Lawrence; who have the Nets working up an ultra-aggressive form of pick and roll defense that might not be best suited for this older, slower team. Still, Lawrence coached Garnett and Pierce as an assistant in Boston, and coached Kidd in New Jersey as an assistant and head coach with the Nets, so it’s not as if he’s unfamiliar with this lot.
This lot will need time, and it’s not as if the Atlantic Division title is running away from any team right now (Atlantic squads have combined to lose 12 games in a row). And Kidd, who combined to play for ten different coaches during his playing career, understands that he can’t go all out with this veteran crew just yet.
At least, we think he knows that. He’s Jason Kidd, coming in fresh. We know absolutely nothing about the guy as a coach thus far.
What we do know is that the Nets are losing, and looking terrible while doing it. Apologies for going the hacky, sports columnist route right now, but that competitive streak that Paul Pierce mentioned might have to set in far before any Xs and Os realignment takes place if the Nets want to turn this around. Because nobody is looking like themselves right now, and I don’t know how much of that can be attributed solely to Jason Kidd acting as a silent partner on his own bench.
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