After writing my post Sunday afternoon, I was able to clear my head in the form of a long drive in terrible weather.
Saturday’s game stuck with me, but I don’t really know why. It was another blowout loss to a better team, another eye-rolling performance from virtually everyone on the floor. Maybe it’s just starting to hit me that this team probably isn’t going to turn around, and seeing that complete number––10-20––pop on screen caused me to rethink what I thought I knew about pro basketball.
So after my long drive through snow and slush, I sat down and reread what I wrote on the game, and I’ll admit, I left some thoughts incomplete. Let’s talk.
I know that hindsight is 20/20, but I know that Jason Kidd was not the right choice of a coach for this team. I know now that coaching is way harder than we thought it was. But at the same time, I know exactly why they hired him and I know that nobody was going to bat an eye when it happened. I know that as a fan who grew up loving Jason Kidd more than any other basketball player, how could I question his return?
Let’s get some things out of the way first. I’ll repeat: hindsight is 20/20. I loved the Kidd signing when it happened, and everyone did. I’m guilty of it, you’re all guilty of it. And before any of you say anything about how you hated it, just read the comments on the NetsDaily post when it happened. We all loved it.
The fact of the matter is, there was no way not to love it. The Kidd hiring was a win-win for the organization. It was the splash that Prokhorov wanted. It had a 100% support from fans, fans who grew up loving Jason Kidd, and were totally willing to ignore the fact that nobody had ever coached a team 10 days after retiring. We’ve learned that Prokhorov and King are guys who love the talk of the moment, and Kidd was without a doubt the splashiest, headlineiest hire they could’ve made.
But, I know now that basketball games are not won in the offseason, and looking back, what the hell was Billy King thinking? What were any of us thinking?
First of all, hiring Jason Kidd as a head coach is insulting to head coaches. It’s pretty much insinuating that coaching is not that hard, that experience doesn’t matter. Who cares, Brian Shaw, that you spent eight years on the bench as an assistant before you got a job? Kidd can do it in a week. Oh cool, Mark Jackson, you spent five years working as an analyst, calling games from the booth to get a better idea of basketball from the sideline perspective? Well, we’ll just give Kidd a couple of All-Star assistants and he’ll do great.
Looking back, how did we miss this? It’s insane. Even before the KG and Pierce trade, the Nets were never a young team. They were always a group that was led by veterans. They were a team that needed to make their run quickly, and instead of just going out and getting a guy who was ready to go, they took a project, wasting valuable time so that he could get up to speed. I mean, seriously? They couldn’t have just gone with George Karl and won a few games?
In this moment, I don’t think there is anything wrong with hiring Jason Kidd as a coach if it’s one of two things. 1.) As an assistant on a good team, like what the Nets were supposed to be. 2.) As a head for a team that’s supposed to tank. Say the Celtics hired Kidd, that’s a team where Kidd can make mistakes, learn the ropes and lose a whole mess of games. And the pressure is off. As of October 31, Kidd had coached as many NBA games as I had, and yet, he was expected to take a team to the Finals. Was a splashy headline really worth that?
I know that the Nets are unable, or unwilling, to make second half adjustments. And I know that is a problem that falls on the shoulders of Jason Kidd.
I don’t know Jason Kidd, nor will I pretend to. I have no idea what kind of person he is, or whether his coach-killing, and now assistant-coach-killing stories are true. I’ve read from other writers that he is a difficult personality, but that’s not for me to say.
Reading the column from Adrian Wojnarowski about Jason Kidd’s loss of the locker room was pretty eye-opening, and if every word is true to the extend of what he wrote, then I don’t know if the Nets have a choice but to fire him.
One thing that stuck out to me in that column was Woj talking about Kidd deflecting the blame from himself and passing it onto the players. I’ve never coached anything in my life, but I’ve watched enough sports to know that the head coach needs to take 98% of the ownership whenever something bad happens–-even if it’s not your fault, and especially when it is. This is just basic stuff. Deflect the issues away from your team and out of your locker room. Yell and scream behind closed doors, but when the media vultures are after the quotes, never pass blame on your team.
Kidd doesn’t do that. He states that there is only so much a coach can do, and he can’t help it if his players don’t hustle. All he can do is yank them. Guess what, Kidd? That’s not true. There’s a reason why your team isn’t trying hard, and as the coach, it’s your job to figure it out.
The Nets get blown out in nearly every third quarter. Some of that falls on the players, but most of it falls on Kidd. Second half adjustments is a part of the game, and a part of every sport. A game plan is crucial, but once you are actually playing the game, things happen that you don’t expect. Things happen that you learn while playing the game, and the sport gives you the decency to have a whole 15 minutes to sit down and decide how to approach it. Use it! And also, going on a run and then pulling your starters on Christmas is just poor decision making. That’s on you, and it’s time for you to own up to it.
I don’t know what would’ve happened if you took this full, healthy roster and ran them under George Karl. But I also don’t know what would’ve happened if you took last year’s team and had Jason Kidd coach them.
Here’s my chicken or the egg question: Is Kidd failing because the players are bad, or are the players bad because Kidd is failing? Is it both? I have no idea. But as I sit and watch the Nets struggle, I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if they had just hired Karl, and had Kidd be an assistant. I’m pretty sure that would have been perfect. You have a team built to win immediately, with a coach who knows how to do it. Then, when Karl inevitably retires in two or three years, you’ve got an assistant groomed for the job and adored by the fan base. Man, why couldn’t they have just thought of that sooner?
I don’t know who to blame. But I also don’t know who not to.
I’ve decided on who I blame for this mess, and it’s Billy King. I’ll say it a third time, hindsight is 20/20, and in hindsight, I still do the KG/Pierce trade, but I tell Jason to take a seat next to a veteran head coach on the bench. You can only blame Kidd for so much, it’s like a parent giving their two-year-old a marker and then getting mad when he draws all over the walls. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, but it’s not his fault for being set up to fail.
King was reportedly wow-ed by Kidd when they first met, and I’m not sure what he said that was wow worthy. Was it just because he showed up and was semi-competent when he expected complete incompetence? Did he really have these spectacular ideas about removing iso-offense (he hasn’t) and improving the defense (he hasn’t)? Or was King just so intrigued with bringing back tine most beloved player in franchise history, a guy who left on bad terms to begin with, that he couldn’t help himself?
I really, really hope it wasn’t the third one.
Chris Hooker is a longtime contributor at Nets are Scorching and The Brooklyn Game. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of The Brooklyn Game or YES Network.