Jason Kidd will need to recreate Deron Williams.
Rookie coach Jason Kidd has a long checklist if he wants to succeed in converting the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets from legitimate title contenders on paper into reality. It’s a bit longer than that of more established NBA coaches for two reasons.
He’s not as far along as one might suspect for one of the best point guards and backcourt leaders the game has ever seen.
As Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski put it:
For all the extraordinary floor vision that elevated his greatness as a player, an innate ability to see the game develop at different angles, different speeds, Kidd made a startling revelation coaching his first practices: In this job, that gift had an inconsequential, if any, benefit to him.
Second reason? This “ain’t” New Jersey.
The media onslaught began the moment Jason Kidd was hired, in the heart of the baseball season.
This is Brooklyn, New York.
The New Jersey Nets always had the cover of the New York Knicks in the press. For most of their history, the Nets were just plain bad (22 of 35 seasons under .500) and were consequently ignored.
Whether the Knicks were good or bad, New York earned the back pages and the greater scrutiny in either case.
Only when the Nets were great for those few seasons in Kidd’s playing days did they take a small bite out of the New York media.
Now, things are vastly different. Not only are the Nets sharing the city with the Knicks, they’ve publicly and vocally upped the ante—from Mikhail Prokhorov’s provocative billboard right outside Madison Square Garden to Paul Pierce’s verbal volleys.
Playing or coaching in New York is hard enough, but with this now-backyard rivalry between the two franchises at a heated all-time high, all eyes (and cameras and smartphones) are watching.
The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will be equally vying for the city’s laser-hot media spotlight.
Kidd can’t get caught in its beam.
Stay focused on Brooklyn’s individual mission—the NBA Finals. Keep cool. Answer the questions. Say less. Take the blame if it calls for it. Give credit to and back up the players.
And don’t read the papers.
Deron Williams needs to play more like Jason Kidd did.
The timing appeared to be good. Deron Williams looked like his superstar old self after cortisone shots on his ailing ankles over last season’s All-Star break.
Already, though, ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo is reporting that “D-Will could miss start of [the] season,” thanks to—guess what—ankle issues.
If Williams plays like his ailing old self throughout 2013-14, the Brooklyn Nets are in trouble. They are mighty thin at point guard.
Assuming he’s back in form somewhere early on, the first thing coach Kidd will need to overcome is Williams’ dissatisfaction with all coaches in general—Jerry Sloan, Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, so far.
If Kidd can manage a contentment in Williams, given their close relationship, and Williams can get past his nagging injuries, the process of recreating D-Will can begin.
It’s time to get those assists up again—back to double figures as in the Utah Jazz days. Williams no longer has to carry such a scoring load either with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and a peaking Brook Lopez picking up the slack.
ESPN’s Johnette Howard couldn’t have said it better:
What will really help Kidd and the Nets succeed on this uncharted path Kidd is embarking upon, is if Deron Williams changes his career arc, too.
That's how the Nets transform back into the NBA Finals team Kidd made them, once upon a time.
Kidd needs Williams to play like the Second Coming of Jason Kidd.
True that. This is the NBA Finals we’re talking about here.
Jason Kidd looking more authoritative without the tights.
Jason Kidd is the boss and, for lack of a better phrase, needs to be taken seriously in the role. The jocular player camaraderie of old (on the same team or as foes) has to step aside.
These are treacherous waters.
Already Garnett has pushed back (more on that in the next slide), but J-Kidd is going to have to restrict minutes.
Kidd and Deron Williams “formed a friendship as members of the U.S. Olympic basketball team and have grown close ever since,” according to D-Will’s website itself.
On any level, it’s tricky when one friend becomes the boss of another. Things like applying punitive measures (benching) or game calls (last shots to Joe Johnson) could carry some personal weight.
With the power great NBA players wield, Kidd will have to simultaneously be unwavering in tough decisions for the good of the team while also persuasively reinforcing that he is “one of them.”
He will need the cooperation of his players in this endeavor, Williams in particular. He needs them all to buy into his plan. This is a two-way street.
Some consistent first-half winning will help get everybody on the same page.
Jason Kidd sees Kevin Garnett to the bench.
Both Kevin Garnett (37) and Paul Pierce (36) are looking at restricted minutes and taking nights off—that usually means at least the second half of a back-to-back.
Garnett isn’t too happy about it. USA Today’s Adi Joseph quoted KG after he was confronted by Kidd’s suggestions on the matter:
It didn't go too well. I understand what he's saying. He just wants to make sure I'm durable. ... I just don't want to be told anything. I think I've earned the right to have an opinion on something that I'm doing. From a chemistry standpoint, I think it's important for me to be out there with everybody.
Addressing this type of assertiveness will be no picnic for Jason Kidd.
But the reality is—and KG and other aching interseason players must swallow it—there are no title hopes without resting everybody more than the average over the course of the season.
All Kidd has to do is hammer home what happened to he and the New York Knicks in 2012-13. They petered out in the end.
The Nets don’t want to be the Knicks. Do they?
Bad boys Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in their Brooklyn black and white.
Who are the Brooklyn Nets?
Last year, despite all the hype and even after 49 wins, the Nets were still, well, blah. Flat. Underachievers. Wimps?
The benefits of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce clearly go beyond the stat sheet.
This deal was also about acquiring an identity—toughness, tenacity, physicality, strong defense-mindedness, in-your-face board crashing and body banging.
That’s not your 2012-13 Nets.
Kidd also needs Brook Lopez to come out of his tender shell. Lopez can physically own the paint if he can muster the courage. He’s getting there, and Kidd can help push him further along that path.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson need to get on board. They and the team gave away Game 7 against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of last year's playoffs.
As Johnette Howard points out, "Their intensity was constantly in question; during their playoff series, a Bulls beat reporter actually said the Bulls were privately saying the Nets were 'gutless' and 'heartless.'"
That’s just the type of game the Nets win with such a change in attitude.
During the regular season, consistent wins over the better (or equal) teams will help cement such an attitude into a belief that the Nets are true title contenders.