Jason Kidd, the rookie veteran

Jason Kidd, Joe Johnson, Andray Blatche

What can Coach Kidd still teach you? What can you possibly, at this point in your career, not know that he does?

“A lot, man,” said Deron Williams. “He’s a Hall-of-Famer, he played 19 years in this league. I got a lot to learn, this is my ninth year. So, I’m sure over the course of the season, I’ll gain a lot of knowledge and become a better point guard because of him.”

“He has a great understanding of the game, he’s one of the best basketball IQ’s that the game has ever seen,” said Paul Pierce. “I’m still learning the game, as I continue to play, probably going to continue to learn as long as I’m playing the game at the NBA level. Now, with him on the sideline, he can see it even better from afar. Now that he’s not a player, he sees the little things even better that he can bring out and teach to guys like myself and Kevin.”

“Jason, what he play, 19-20 years?” said Joe Johnson. “I’m still learning 13 years in, every day. I just try to be a sponge and soak in everything Kevin, Paul and J-Kidd have to say. I’ll willing to listen and learn.”

Joe Johnson, usually the quietest guy on the team, actually gave me the best understanding of what was happening here when he lumped Kidd in with Garnett and Pierce.

Maybe it’s not about teaching or learning anything. I’m right, most of these guys have probably done all the actual learning that they’ll ever do, and maybe the real question should be: “What can Lawrence Frank teach you?” Because what Kidd can teach is the same thing any veteran can teach, what any veteran of anything can teach. The teaching is secondary, what’s primary is being there to talk to his players, being a guy who commands respect. Being a person involved with the organization who’s been around.

I learned more about swimming from my teammates than I ever did from my coach, even though the coach was actually the one teaching. What the Nets have done is allowed Jason Kidd to be a teammate without him playing any minutes, and left the teaching up the experts.

This isn’t to say that Kidd is doing nothing. The system utilizes his ideas. But he’s not the primary teacher, he’s not running the drills. Maybe he will be someday, but right now, he isn’t. And that’s okay.

How can anyone command respect from Garnett, Pierce, Johnson and Jason Terry? These are players who have been successful in every situation, who have thrived in tough times, who have lived up to and fallen short of expectations, and made big-time money. What can they learn from a basketball coach? They say, “We can all learn something,” and that may be true. But from Lawrence Frank? I’m not buying it.

But from Jason Kidd? A guy who went through the difficulties of the game, the trials and tribulations of practice, who knows how hard it is to win a ring, how hard it is to be recognized? A guy who commands respect because he will forever be thought of as an NBA Hall-of-Fame point guard? Now that’s something that will work.

“I think you can learn from anything,” said Billy King. “Coach K was watching practice and he was taking notes. Here’s a guy that’s won four championships, the most all-time wins, and he’s taking notes on what Jason and his staff are doing. So I think any time you play a sport, or any time you’re alive, you can learn from somebody.”

That may be true. But it’s also helpful to find the ultimate veteran and, essentially, put him on your roster. Kidd doesn’t really need to be a coach to be a coach. He just needs to be there and be present and aware, and that automatically makes whatever he says valid. He knows more about basketball than anyone, because he played for 20 years and was successful in just about all of them. Who else can say that?

“(With Kidd), every day is something new,” said Terry. “Today, it was more mental than anything.” 

Terry went on to say how the team was confused by something in the playbook and couldn’t get second half of the play down.

“So, he went back to saying, ‘Well, you guys see, everything is important. Every little thing is important. So today, let’s make sure sure we got every little thing down. You can’t miss a step.’ That was refreshing to hear. He has so much knowledge within him, and every day I’m always open, because you can always learn.”

Terry stressed the line again: “Every little thing is important,” as if he’d never heard that before. I think hearing it from Kidd is different from hearing it from a coach. I think Kidd has earned the trust of guys that they don’t get from coaches. And I think when you have a team full of veterans, trust from your captain, from your leader, is the most important thing out there.

I don’t know what Jason Kidd’s “system” is going to fully look like yet. But I do know that Jason Kidd could be the most respected coach in the NBA right now. And that may be the difference between a ring and a round one exit.

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