Will Jason Kidd help Deron Williams regain his elite point guard status?
It’s no secret that Kidd and Williams have been close friends since playing together for Team USA in 2008. D-Will was the only Nets player present as Kidd stepped up to the podium to be introduced as the team’s next head coach. The two share the same agent, Jeff Shwartz, and occasionally golf together on weekends.
The Nets hope this friendship will translate into a flourishing player-coach relationship and contribute to the success of a team built to win now. More specifically, general manager Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be relying on Kidd to take Williams’ game to the next level.
King took a risk by hiring Kidd, who has no coaching experience and retired from playing just one month ago. But that risk could come with a big reward.
Williams struggled with injuries and inconsistency throughout the first half of the 2012-13 season. The face of the franchise now has the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest point guards of all time and regain his star status at the position.
Shedding the Coach-Killer Reputation
D-Will’s feuds with NBA head coaches have been well documented.
When Williams played with the Utah Jazz, he and head coach Jerry Sloan had an extremely contentious relationship. The repeated clashes between the two eventually culminated in Sloan’s abrupt resignation after 23 years coaching the team.
When Avery Johnson was fired by the Nets last season, a lot of fingers pointed to Williams as the cause.
Now, he’ll be mentored by his friend, who developed his own reputation as a coach-killer during his playing days. Kidd was blamed, and maybe rightly so, for the firing of former Nets coach Byron Scott at the midway point of the 2004 season.
But that was nearly ten years ago, and it sounds like the future Hall of Famer has a lot of confidence in his talented point guard.
“I have a lot to learn about coaching, but when I played the game I felt like I was an extension of the coach. I look to Deron to be that guy to execute the game plan that I think that we can win,” Kidd told reporters at his introductory news conference (via NorthJersey.com).
It also sounds like Williams is eager to start playing for Kidd.
“He [Kidd] is one of the smartest players to ever play this game and I think he will make a great coach," D-Will told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com. "I know he will have to get on me at times and that is fine.”
It helps that Kidd and Williams won’t have a traditional player-coach relationship. The fact that the two are peers should help them maintain a level of mutual respect and understanding.
From all accounts Kidd and Williams are committed to getting along and being great together. How the two mesh will play a vital role in improving Williams’ reputation on and off the court.
Staying Healthy and Fresh
One of the biggest issues NBA coaches combat is how to keep older players fresh and healthy throughout the grind of an 82-game season.
As a former player who battled through injuries and fatigue in the latter stages of his career, Kidd should have an adept understanding of how to limit D-Will’s minutes in order to keep him operating at 100 percent.
Williams spent the first half of the 2012-13 season battling nagging ankle injuries. Instead of resting the star player, Avery Johnson and interim coach P.J. Carlesimo chose to play him nearly 40 minutes per game.
According to Beckley Mason of ESPN.com, Williams’ PER (17.5), assist percentage (35.8 percent) and free throws per game (4.4) were the lowest since his second season in the NBA over that stretch. He struggled with shooting, dunking and beating defenders off the dribble.
The All-Star break offered the Nets’ point guard time to heal his bum wheels. Benefiting from over a week of rest and a round of cortisone shots in both ankles, Williams averaged 23 points on 48 percent shooting, including 43 percent from three-point range down the stretch.
Kidd, meanwhile, was forced to withdraw from two Olympic teams due to injuries, and he knows from personal experience how fatigue can affect a player’s game. In his final 10 playoff games with the New York Knicks, he failed to make a single field goal.
Kidd won’t ride Williams into the ground like Johnson and Carlesimo did. He’ll know when it’s time for his point guard to rest, and he won’t rush him back from injury.
Stuffing the Stat Sheet
Williams developed his superstar reputation in Utah as one of the league’s best scorers and facilitators. During his final three seasons with the Jazz he averaged 19 points and 10.5 assists.
Since being traded to the Nets in the middle of the 2010-11 season, he’s remained one of the top scoring point guards, but his assist totals have dropped. Over the last three seasons he’s averaged just 8.7 assists.
The arrival of Kidd should help to improve D-Will’s assist and rebound totals. During his 18-year career, Kidd recorded over 100 triple-doubles and 10,000 assists. He’s the only player in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, 10,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds.
Kidd averaged 12.7 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds for his career. Known mostly for his passing and rebounding, he transformed himself into a proficient long-range shooter in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks. The 6’4” point guard shot 42 percent from beyond the arc during the Mavericks championship run in 2009-10.
Kidd can help Williams transform his own game and push him back into the elite ranks of NBA point guards.
The Nets’ new head coach will have a lot to learn in his first year, but he appears to be up for the challenge. He’s both a winner and a competitor and has a high basketball IQ, and that should help Williams overcome the hurdles he now faces following an up-and-down 2012-13 campaign.
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