Why Jason Kidd Is Under More Pressure Than Any Head Coach Next Season
Imagine this scenario: You retire at age 40 and immediately accept a job offer in which you have no previous experience and must boss around your former work colleagues. Oh, and the business owner claims to have provided you with all the resources necessary to succeed, by virtue of hiring such a talented staff that it costs your boss an unprecedented tax bill of $80 million.
No pressure, right?
J-Kidd has entered into precisely that situation in Brooklyn. He takes the reins of a high-profile team in a pressurized media market. Even as a rookie head coach who practically just stepped off the court as a player, Kidd will be expected to improve drastically upon last year's first-round disappointment.
And if he fails, he will have Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov to answer to.
Despite the Nets' potent new starting five and a creditable team of assistant coaches, the mandate that Jason Kidd must deliver an NBA championship measures him against an impossible standard and sets him up to fail.
Brooklyn won 49 games during the regular season and fired head coach Avery Johnson in the process. Then came the playoffs.
Facing the injury-depleted Chicago Bulls, the Nets fumbled away Game 7 at home and watched the rest of the postseason on TV. P.J. Carlesimo became the second Nets head coach to be fired in the team's inaugural season in Brooklyn. Clearly, losing will not be tolerated.
Coach of the Year George Karl was available for the job opening, and so was Lionel Hollins, who took the Memphis Grizzlies to the conference finals.
Instead, the Nets hired Kidd fresh off his timely retirement from the New York Knicks. In a written statement, Prokhorov said Kidd has the "fire in the belly we need," according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post).
As reported by David M. Herszenhorn of the New York Times, the Russian industrialist believes Kidd has the intangible X-factor to make Brooklyn a powerhouse in the East. Speaking for the first time about hiring Kidd as head coach, Prokhorov proclaimed:
The point is that there are people who are born coaches. And it is known that Jason Kidd was in fact a player-coach on many teams. And he has been training for a long time. He has played under many coaches, and he has always wanted to be a coach.
Perhaps this was the part Kidd was born to play, and he will avenge his two losses playing for the Nets in the NBA Finals. But those are long odds for a rookie head coach. And the clock is ticking.
Prokhorov is a renowned bachelor, but he's putting everything on the line to bring a title across the Brooklyn Bridge to Barclays Center.
When asked prior to the 2012-13 season by Steve Serby of the New York Post if he would ever consider getting married, Prokhorov responded wryly: "I have said that if the Nets don't win the NBA championship within five years, I will punish myself by getting married. We are in year three. So no one is more interested in winning a championship than yours truly."
And if the Nets don't win a title in the next two years, Prokhorov won't be the only one getting punished.
It's a rarity that NBA news overshadows the NBA draft, but that's precisely what happened Thursday night. With the draft being televised from the Nets' home arena, news broke concerning one of the more memorable trades in NBA history.
In the deal initially reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Boston Celtics agreed to ship Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets in exchange for the flotsam and jetsam of Brooklyn's roster and three first-round draft picks.
On Twitter, jaws dropped 140 characters at a time.
On a crazy draft night the Nets stole the show: Brooklyn pulls off blockbuster trade for Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce. http://t.co/4gd48w0hvD— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) June 28, 2013
And just like that, the Nets produced one of the league's most talented starting fives: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez. And they even retained rebounding maven Reggie Evans.
Of course, the deal ballooned their payroll and will result in an unsightly luxury tax bill, but it undoubtedly improves the team immediately.
As Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York assessed it, "Gerald Wallace? Kris Humphries? Keith Bogans? MarShon Brooks? Kris Joseph? You trade those guys for Garnett and Pierce eight days a week, and allow Jason Terry along for the ride."
The swap recalls last year's acquisition of Joe Johnson, when the Nets accepted a troublesome contract from a team desperate to deal and gave up less quality than they received in return.
When you're worth $13 billion, you can afford to take on onerous contracts signed by unwise GMs.
Some of you may remember last offseason when the Los Angeles Lakers inked Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. This led to rampant speculation by journalists, fans and Vegas bookmakers that the Lakers would win the title or at least make the finals.
Instead, they hobbled into the playoffs and were promptly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
The 2010-11 Miami Heat also serve as a cautionary tale for the "we've-got-a-championship-in-the-bag" mentality. They fell in six games to the Dallas Mavericks despite being the visibly more talented team.
It takes at least two elite players to win an NBA championship, and three All-Stars are even better. But two or three players do not a team make. Playoff victories require depth, versatility and perseverance.
Nets are NOT in the conversation for anything in the East. Nothing. DEF not a top 3 team http://t.co/q3z03U6R6N Miami, Chicago, Indiana— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) June 28, 2013
Perhaps most of all, sustained playoff success requires health.
Because Prokhorov and general manager Billy King have decided to pay their starting five a preposterous $82 million next season, Kidd will likely have a D-League bench of role players from a rummage sale.
The Nets have mortgaged their future in the draft to take on three players who are 35 or older and slated to make a total of $33 million next season. With the trade, Brooklyn's guaranteed payroll for 2013-14 already sits at $94 million.
The hope is that the Nets will be so good, their first-round picks won't matter. But Kidd's two-year window for a title is ludicrous.
In the East alone, the Heat have won three consecutive conference titles. Chicago will get Derrick Rose back, and the Indiana Pacers have Danny Granger returning, either as a player or as a trade chip. And then there's the cross-river rivals at Madison Square Garden.
"The Nets did what the Nets do. They spent money/assets to try & skip steps on their way to a title." Contenders now? http://t.co/fPDWh1dHTp— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) June 28, 2013
Just getting to the finals will be no walk in the park, forget about all the quality out West.
Despite what Prokhorov might think, being a "player-coach" is very different from being a head coach. Kidd will now coach his close friend in Deron Williams, which will be delicate ground to tread on. KG is not known to be particularly amiable. And Kidd will now have the task of managing an old roster with limited depth.
Unless his assistants do all the coaching and Kidd just serves as a motivator, there will be a lot to learn in his first year at the helm, and coaching a $100-million team does not afford a coach any "rookie moments."
Unfairly, Jason Kidd has accepted a job which requires him to win a championship in two years. Even aside from the existence of LeBron James, the Nets have given Kidd a nearly impossible task of guiding an incomplete team to a title in the country's most scrutinizing media market.
Good luck, Jason. We can't wait to see you as a TNT analyst in two year's time.
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