Blueprint for Jason Kidd to Take Brooklyn Nets to Next Level

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

Not even two weeks removed from his retirement as a player, Jason Kidd came out of nowhere to snatch the Brooklyn Nets' head-coaching job from a host of more experienced candidates.

According to Howard Beck of the New York Times, the Nets will make Kidd's hiring official on June 13:

Steals were never hard to come by for Kidd as a player, and with the way he darted in to snag his first coaching gig, they're apparently no problem for him as a retiree.

Assists were another of Kidd's specialties, and if he can find a way to help his new squad improve on its first-round exit from this year's playoffs, his status in Nets lore will grow from "beloved" to "legendary."

Kidd has been through plenty as a player, but his toughest challenge may lie ahead. With massive expectations, a clearly impatient ownership group and a profoundly flawed roster, his Nets don't have very many obvious paths to improvement. Still, Kidd has also been famous for his unparalleled vision.

Maybe he's got what it takes to get the Nets to the next level. To do that, he'll have to make a handful of important changes.


Unleash D-Will

Deron Williams looked like two different players last season. Before the All-Star break, he was a sluggish, overweight plodder whose ankles caused enough persistent pain to render the formerly high-flying point guard earthbound.

After the break, though, Williams suddenly regained his wings. His scoring average spiked by more than six points per game, his three-point stroke improved from 35 percent to 42 percent and his post-break field-goal percentage climbed all the way to 48 percent.

Numbers aside, he looked slimmer, rediscovered his old bounce and generally performed like the guy who once inspired debates about who was better: D-Will or CP3?

For the Nets to climb into the East's upper echelon, Williams must be the elite player he once was. Nothing's guaranteed, though, as his post-break surge could easily represent a last gasp instead of a second wind.

Physical breakdowns are inevitable in the NBA. Even though we saw flashes of the old Williams over the season's final couple of months, it's possible that his days as a consistent superstar are over.

Plus, Williams has cultivated a somewhat deserved reputation as a coach killer after allegedly running Jerry Sloan out of Utah and getting Avery Johnson fired last season. Make no mistake about it; the Nets made the Kidd hire with an eye toward keeping their best player happy.

Kidd has a terrific relationship with Williams—one that very nearly resulted in the two teaming up in Dallas last summer.

If Kidd can get through to Williams and maybe even help him add to his game, the Nets will be much better off for it.


Impart Some Late-Career Three-Point Magic

Because of the Nets' comically bloated payroll, they're not going to be acquiring players in free agency for a long time. $90 million in salary commitments for the 2013-14 season means that if they're going to improve, it'll almost certainly have to come from growth within the roster.

That means Kidd is going to have to teach some of Brooklyn's shooters how he put the "J' back in his name during his own late-career reinvention.

Kidd couldn't shoot the ball at all during the first 10 years of his career. His three-point percentage fluctuated from season to season, occasionally climbing as high as 37 percent in his third and fifth years, but typically settling in the low 30s.

But as his quickness left him, Kidd tinkered with his shot and drilled at least 34 percent of his threes during the final nine years of his illustrious playing career. His unlikely transformation reached completion in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks, as he shot better than 40 percent from long range during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

That's all a long-winded way of saying that Kidd knows it's possible for players to make serious improvements no matter how defined their skill sets might seem. That's good news for a guy like Gerald Wallace, a career 31-percent shooter from long distance whose inability to spread the floor rendered him useless for long stretches last season.

If Kidd can get Wallace to embrace the work it takes to add a perimeter shot, the Nets' offense could undergo a massive transformation.

That ability to inspire change could extend to other players as well. Kidd could also get MarShon Brooks to become a legitimate rotation player or coax more consistent production out of Mirza Teletovic.

Those guys—along with the rest of the team's short veteran rotation—are going to have to step up. Kidd could be the perfect guy to make them believe that it's never too late to learn a few new tricks.


Let the Assistants Do the Heavy Lifting

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Kidd's hiring was made easier by the fact that he plans to bring veteran coaches Lawrence Frank and Tim Grgurich to the bench with him. 

Nobody doubts the value of Kidd's 19 years of experience in the league, but the transition to the bench should be much easier with a couple of steady-handed assistants to support him. The Golden State Warriors proved that by pairing Mark Jackson, another former point guard with zero head-coaching experience, with Mike Malone.

Coaches have to be able to motivate and engender respect from the roster. Former players are great for those things, but most are also relatively ignorant to some of the key tactical nuances necessary for success.

A historically unselfish player, Kidd shouldn't have any problem ceding a few strategic decisions to his assistants. If he merely focuses on his role as an emotional leader and experienced motivator, his assistants will be able to pick up the slack in other areas.

And remember, Kidd may be inexperienced as a coach, but he's been around the league much longer than some of the NBA's best young coaches.


Resist the Urge to Suit Up

Can't you just see it? The Nets are struggling to find a capable backup for Williams as they trudge out to a 10-10 record over the season's first few weeks. Without the money to sign a free agent, Kidd convinces himself he'll be able to give the team a few minutes per game as its backup point guard.

As exciting as that might sound—and as cool as it would be to see a player-coach—Kidd has to avoid the temptation to toss on a jersey and help out.

That's a potentially literal problem. But the figurative value of that scenario is also important. See, Kidd has to function as a coach now. That means he isn't going to be able to fix problems on the floor himself; he'll have to trust his team to follow his guidance from the bench when the going gets tough.

For a guy who spent two decades leading by example on the floor, it's going to be tricky for Kidd to rely on his voice to get the job done.


Win the Press Conference

The last thing Kidd will have to do to take the Nets to the next level is win the press conference. That might sound vague, but if you've watched Jackson control the media with his charisma and bluster, you know what I'm talking about.

Golden State is a desirable destination for free agents now precisely because players want to work under a guy like Jackson. His current players love his positive attitude and confidence. Even if his pontification often feels heavy-handed and even a little disingenuous to skeptical viewers (writer raises his hand), it works on players.

Kidd needs to exude that same confidence. If he's going to stick around in Brooklyn for the long haul, he'll have to start appealing to future free agents (you know, in 2015 when the Nets have a sliver of cap room) now.

In the end, the Nets got a lot of what they wanted in Kidd: a splash, a big-name hire and a coach who represents the franchise's hip, new thinking. But the team also wants to be a contender—like yesterday.

Even if Kidd succeeds in every way suggested here, it's still going to be exceptionally difficult for the Nets to elevate themselves to the level of the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in the East.


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