EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jason Kidd watches the Brooklyn Nets scrimmage and wonders if he should jump on the court and help control the tempo.
Not anymore. Kidd is done saving the Nets as a player.
The only way he can help them now is as a coach, and nobody knows for sure if he can have the same impact in a suit that he did in a uniform.
“There’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of unknowns,” Kidd said Tuesday. “Kind of feels like I just got traded from Phoenix here.”
Things turned out great back then. Kidd arrived in 2001 and turned a franchise he called “bottom of the barrel” and a “laughingstock” into one that would reach consecutive NBA Finals and become a consistent winner in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have expectations again for the first time since that era, thanks mainly to a trade with Boston that brought in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The roster is well stocked around them after a summer spending spree, and perhaps the biggest question is in the coaching box.
Kidd is confident, but nervous.
“I think I’ve always been nervous before every game,” he said. “You ask any trainer, I’ve always taken Pepto just to settle my nerves, because basketball’s always been something that you can never control. It’s something that you just don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but once the ball is up in the air, your nerves tend to go away, you just respond and react.
“And so I am nervous, but the nice thing is that we do have some talented players who know how to play, who want to be coached and it’s exciting. I think it’s an exciting nervousness and I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
Kidd retired in May after a stellar 19-year NBA career and was hired by the Nets just weeks later. It’s a potentially risky hire for a team with championship aspirations, but the 40-year-old Kidd is regarded as one of the few players who could excel as a coach even without previous experience.
“I have learned not to underestimate Jason Kidd,” said Grant Hill, who shared the 1995 Rookie of the Year award with Kidd and also retired after last season.
“I will say this. For me personally, I would need time to decompress and get away from it and sort of change my thinking from that of a player to that of a coach, but Jason is Jason. And I think if anyone can do it, he certainly is that person.”
Kidd, a starter on NBA and Olympic championship teams, joked that he hadn’t been an unknown in basketball since seventh grade. He spent the summer learning as much as he could about his new craft, speaking with championship-winning coaches such as Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich.
“This has been kind of going back to school for me,” said Kidd, who will have his number retired by the Nets next month. “I’ve been very lucky to have been welcomed by these other coaches that have had success and been able to share their story.”
Kidd coached the Nets’ summer league entry in Orlando and has been in touch with his players, but not too much. He said that when he played, he preferred coaches “checked in and not bothered me,” adding that those who reached out too often eventually found their text messages unreturned.
His first practice is next Tuesday at Duke University, where he’ll begin trying to put together combinations and figure out the best way to manage the minutes of Pierce and Garnett, who has apparently already objected to the notion of resting the second night of back-to-back games.
Kidd likes that, though. The Nets were transformed by a trade when he arrived, and he thinks the arrival of the intense Garnett is the jolt that’s needed for a team that had talent but not enough passion last season.
“I think it was just vanilla, and I think you guys can see after the trade with Garnett and Pierce, it’s kind of changed,” Kidd said. “And so I think we’re doing the right thing in changing the identity. It was just, there was no flavor and so no identity and now with that trade, that changes the whole game.”
The Nets will kick of their regular season against the Cavaliers in a road contest on October 30.
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