It started like a train wreck.
High-priced players, lofty expectations and a rookie coach were the ingredients that stirred the Brooklyn Nets pot to begin the season. Whatever was in that pot stunk up the Barclays Center something awful, to the tune of 10-21 to begin the season.
It appeared as if the Brooklyn ownership had made a huge mistake bringing in brittle veterans and Jason Kidd to lead them. Pundits called for the head of Kidd on a platter as he showed his Mark Jackson diva-like attitude banishing his top assistant from his side citing “philosophical differences.” They had no direction, they couldn’t stay healthy, they couldn’t rebound and just weren’t viable.
And it was all seemingly Kidd’s fault.
Then sometime just before the start of 2014, Kidd invoked a wardrobe change. He stopped wearing ties to the games for no identifiable reason. He also told Kevin Garnett he would have to play center in light of the season-ending injury to Brook Lopez. Lineup change after lineup change ensued which eventually shifted Paul Pierce to power forward. Kidd adopted a smaller lineup and stuck with it. Deron Williams started to play regularly and Brooklyn began to form an identity as a defensive-minded team with decent half-court execution.
An improbable road win against the vaunted Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 2 may have been the catalyst of change to Brooklyn’s season (in addition to Kidd ditching ties). Joe Johnson launched a shot that drew rain at the buzzer in a never-say-die affair with OKC, giving Brooklyn a 95-93 win and the Nets that were supposed to be were born.
In that game they were seemingly over-matched and could have laid dead in the water accepting their usual tricks of the early season. But as if they were in a Rocky movie, they never gave up. They bonded together to rally in the final quarter before Iso-Joe did his thing to score his eighth and ninth points of the evening.
Since the beginning of the new year, the Nets are 27-11 and they look like a team that could pose danger to others in the Eastern Conference. The media and fans are no longer calling for Kidd’s head but they aren’t clamoring to give him credit for turning things around either.
That’s the nature of the job I suppose.
Given the fact that Brooklyn was supposed to challenge the East’s elite and potentially win the Atlantic Division at the start of the season, it seems to be a case of “what took so long” for Kidd’s improved Nets in the minds of his early critics. Making in-season adjustments that work out with a banged up roster seems to be a matter of luck or happenstance as opposed to good old fashioned coaching ingenuity.
Nobody is claiming that Kidd is all of a sudden Gregg Popovich or has become a master motivator like John Wooden. It’s too early for any of that especially without a playoff win under his soon to be Hall of Fame (as a player) belt. But it’s a bit of shame that he can’t get credit for turning around what could have been a doubly miserable season for basketball fans in New York.
Kidd and the Nets press on while injuries continue to nip at them like tiny dogs with inferiority complexes. They have a chance to win the Atlantic Division and could actually have home court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs if things break just right. Go figure.
The man with 12,091 career assists has given his team another one, just in a different role that breeds far less credit under the circumstances. And that isn’t likely to change anytime soon no matter where Brooklyn winds up this season.
It’s much easier to tear down than to build and that seems to be case for Kidd when it comes to getting any credit he deserves this season.