By Jason Keidel
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This thing was doomed from day one.
Jason Kidd coaching the Nets before the sweat dried on his jersey was bad business on nearly every level.
For all the fluff, the B-List celebrities on the sideline and the new car smell wafting through Barclays Center, basketball is still more about substance than style. And no one knows that better than Kidd, who was so selfless as a player he was nearly transparent. The Nets play nothing like he did, which says plenty about his players and his ability to lead them.
(No, this isn’t a case of flawless hindsight. I anticipated this on June 10, on this site.)
Mikhail Prokhorov has given Kidd the ever-ominous vote of confidence. Remember where the billionaire was born, as Russia’s votes are rather rigged. If the Nets’ owner were humble enough to admit the mistake, he would can Kidd today, pay his contract give a mea culpa to the masses and pound the reset button.
He had no problem jamming the eject button on Avery Johnson in the embryonic throes of the 2012 season, while Johnson was exponentially more qualified than Kidd. And, inexplicably, he decided that P.J. Carlesimo couldn’t coach this team, when he did a wonderful job with it last year.
The Nets (4-10) aren’t just losing games. They’re getting their doors blown off. Opposing scouts are saying that Kidd looks lost, rarely designs plays and has no hold over his pack of Alpha dogs.
Don’t let Tuesday night fool you. Even the hairline winning margin over the “first-place” Toronto Raptors was emblematic of a headless hardwood gang. After building a 15-point lead, the Nets didn’t score a single field goal over the final five minutes.
It makes sense. Kidd is seen as one of the boys, not the boss. He’s not far enough removed from the game to gain the distance needed to morph from peer to professor. No one questions Kidd’s basketball IQ, his work ethic or his love for the sport. But beyond whiteboard streaks and backdoor cuts, the one thing a coach or manager in any sport requires is respect.
Who’s the voice of the team? Net newbie Kevin Garnett. Nature indeed abhors this Brooklyn vacuum, and the loquacious legend has bogarted the microphone. His opinion is almost monolithic. Whenever the Nets play, only his postgame postmortems are rolled out on endless loop.
By contrast, Kidd speaks in his typically sleepy tones, in an almost deferential cadence, belching the few coaching bromides he’s remembered about communication and heart.
It’s easy to look at Mark Jackson or Larry Bird as exceptions to the coaching rule, that one must rot on the sideline as an assistant and pay those abstract dues before you can sit at the front of the plane. But remember that both Bird and Jackson took some time away from the court before strolling the sidelines in suits.
The Nets can find some comfort crosstown, where the Knicks are equally wretched. But at least they can lean on their 54 wins last year and the hope that once Tyson Chandler heals they can take off. The Nets are trying to establish a new ethos, not return to one.
Sure, the Nets have been playing without Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. But any team with Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson should at least keep their nostrils over .500. This is on Kidd.
For too long we’ve been told that an NBA coach is little more than a babysitter, a figurehead, some chump to pump air in the ball. That may be true if LeBron James is one of your kids. But the rest of the world must work for gain.
Kidd can take Jackson’s seat in the booth. He was a better player. Perhaps he’ll be a better analyst. He needs to view the game from a different altitude to gain some aptitude. He should confer with some of the old salt, and learn that coaching is about more than reputation and looking sweet in a Canali suit.
Maybe Kidd’s just not that into this. Maybe he’s not ready. Maybe he’s not qualified. Maybe it’s not working. No, it’s definitely not working. It took Kidd about 15 years to get an NBA title as a player. It was silly to think he could come close with no experience as a coach.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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