Brooklyn Nets: Was hiring Jason Kidd a mistake?


Jason Kidd may be an all-time great, but is he in over his head as a head coach?( photo by John Maynard)

When Jason Kidd was traded to the New Jersey Nets during the off-season of 2001, he immediately proclaimed that this was “a playoff team.”  Was he delusional?  The Nets, after all, were one of the NBA’s laughingstocks the season before, finishing with a 26-56 record overall, good for sixth place in the Atlantic Division and a far cry from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.  Sure enough, though, led by the example of Jason Kidd, the Nets were able to not only make the playoffs in Kidd’s first season with the team, but finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference and get all the way to the NBA Finals.  Jason not only made the Nets better, he made them relevant.  The Nets were a consistently competitive playoff team throughout his entire tenure in Jersey and fell off a cliff the minute he forced his way to Dallas to play with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.  Kidd’s tenure ended up being a bright spot in an otherwise dark history for a franchise that never seemed to be able to get out of it’s own way for the duration of their time in New Jersey.

So when news broke this past off-season that Jason Kidd was emerging as a surprise front runner to coach the Brooklyn Nets, it was easy for Nets fans to get excited about Kidd coming back to the organization.  The name “Jason Kidd” evokes memories of a team that won a ton of games, played with heart, and left everything on the floor.  Theoretically, the transition would be an easy one.  It was easy to look past the lack of experience as even an assistant and not worry about the fact that Kidd’s laid-back demeanor is typically the exception and not the rule among most manning the sidelines in today’s NBA.  Kidd, of course, was famous for being a “coach-on-the-floor” type.  His greatest trait as a player was his ability to elevate the level of play of his teammates and put everyone in the right spot to succeed.  Isn’t that the job description of a coach, anyway?

Now, more than 10 games into the season, the novelty is beginning to wear off.  There were many great players who couldn’t hack it as coaches, most notably Magic Johnson, a guy who possessed many of the same characteristics that made Kidd so great on the floor.  It’s early, but not early enough that the question shouldn’t be asked: Can Jason Kidd actually coach?

The numbers are telling.  Jason Kidd preached a faster play during his introductory press conference, yet Brooklyn ranks just 22nd in the NBA in pace.  Defense was another priority preached by Kidd early on, and the Nets have been absolutely disastrous on that side of the ball with a defensive rating of 107.5, good for 25th in the NBA.  It isn’t much better on offense, where Brooklyn again is outside the top 20 (21st overall with a rating of 102.0).  Kidd also put an emphasis on sacrifice and ball movement, but the Nets rank just 24th in the NBA in assists and have played a ton of isolation ball in the early going.  This could be attributed to the many new faces on the roster, but you have to wonder if Kidd is getting through to this team at all, seeing as his imprint on this group is almost nowhere to be found.

What’s worse is actually seeing Jason Kidd in games.  During timeouts, he rarely says anything, leaving the defensive adjustments to Lawrence Frank and the offense to Joe Prunty.  The Brooklyn Nets have looked extremely lethargic thus far, and Kidd’s lack of emotion on the sidelines just isn’t a good look for a team that ahsnt been able to find ways to win.  “Every time we take the floor I feel like this is the moment it’s going to turn,” coach Kidd said after an embarrassing loss the Charlotte Bobcats. “Because guys have done everything we’ve asked, and gotten better each time we’ve taken the floor.”  Huh?  Is Kidd even watching this team play?

There are many reasons for this teams poor play besides Kidd.  Injuries, of course, are a factor.  Brook Lopez has missed four games in a row with ankle trouble.  Deron Williams hasn’t been right yet either.  Andrei Kirilenko is dealing with back spasms and the three newly acquired Celtics have all missed time as well.  This team has a ton of new faces, and figuring out chemistry and lineup combinations for a roster this new is a daunting task for any coach, let alone a guy with zero experience.  Which again brings about the same question: was Jason Kidd the right guy for this job?  It’s early in the season, but it’s getting later in a hurry.  Jason Kidd has all the traits required to be a competent head coach, but the lack of a sense of urgency this team exudes is extremely concerning.  For the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd had better figure something out fast, before it’s too late.

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