Fast forward a few months, and Kidd has led the hottest team in the Eastern Conference since January 1st and won two Coach of the Month Awards. Things sure change fast, huh?
Tonight, they look to diminish the playoff hopes of the hot mess in Manhattan — the New York Knicks.
The Knicks are built around Carmelo Anthony, and as he goes, they go: he leads the NBA in minutes per game and has had a very solid season despite his team’s lack of success. When he’s on, he’s nearly unstoppable.
So why is Kidd the X-Factor in this critical matchup?
Kidd has developed his coaching skills over the past few months, but the one strength that has stood out the most is his ability to cut off the “head” of the snake: be it LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, or Kevin Love, Kidd has devised schemes and coverages that have successfully slowed the impact of his opponent’s best player.
On March 12th, LeBron James scored just 19 points on 6-13 shooting in a Heat loss. On March 23rd, Dirk Nowitzki shot a porous 2-12, dropping just 10 points in a Mavericks loss. One week later on March 30th, Kevin Love was bothered into a 5-14 shooting night, scoring 14 points in — you guessed it — a Timberwolves loss.
Now, Kidd must halt the impact of his old teammate and New York’s best player in Anthony.
In the last Knicks-Nets matchup on January 20th, the Nets stymied Anthony: he scored 26 points but shot just 8-19 in 39 minutes.
In that game, Kidd mixed up the coverages throughout: sending double teams in the post while also letting players such as Alan Anderson, Shaun Livingston, and Paul Pierce guard him straight up.
Ever since the Knicks acquired Anthony three years ago, they’ve been one of the most three-point oriented teams in the NBA. This season, they rank 2nd in threes attempted per 100 possessions, and 1st in threes made per 100 possessions. Last season, they were first in both categories.
One reason for their heavy dose of three-pointers is the attention Anthony draws: if you try to double-team, he’s a good enough passer to kick it out and create an open three. If you chose to play him straight up, he has potential to get hot and make your team look silly. The Nets found that out the hard way in their first meeting with New York back on December 5th: they lost by 30 as the Knicks hit 16 of 27 three-pointers, allowing Anthony to make 8 of his 12 field goal attempts for 19 points and six assists.
As the season evolves, so do Kidd’s gameplans. If the Nets are to win on Wednesday, they’re going to have to rely on Kidd to devise the proper strategy that will slow down Anthony — the head of the snake and the key to the Knicks’ success.
Or maybe he’ll just drown the head in a cup of soda.