5 Ways We Know Jason Kidd Is in over His Head as Brooklyn Nets' Coach
The Brooklyn Nets reached deep into Mikhail Prokhorov's pockets this summer and emerged with a collection of talent built for the ages.
The problem? That mind didn't exist. Kidd had no coaching background to speak from, nothing more than 19 years of playing the game at the professional level.
That's like building the world's most expensive restaurant and tasking a farmer with handling its day-to-day operations. The work is related, but the job descriptions are so incredibly different.
Kidd is less than six months into his coaching career. But that's less of an excuse, more of a foundation of this problem.
He has to make good on $200 million of championship dreams. Yesterday. He must balance a collection of All-Star egos—players he called peers just last season—and make them buy into a vision he's still learning how to paint.
Kidd's unbelievably far in over his head, and that's becoming more obvious by the second. There is no shortage of evidence to substantiate that fact, but five different themes have emerged to drive that point painfully home.
It could have been comical if it wasn't so horribly sad.
With 8.3 seconds, two points and zero timeouts standing between Brooklyn and its ninth loss in its last 11 games, Kidd tried turning the Nets' game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 27 into a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition. Not with flash, not with style—just enough spilled soda to give him the chance to draw up a play for his team.
He appeared to mouth the words "hit me" to reserve guard Tyshawn Taylor. The two bumped into each other on the sideline, and Kidd spilled his drink all over the Barclays Center floor. Officials called in the cleaning crew, while the Nets coaches drew up a play for a last-second attempt.
But the basketball gods were having no part of these shenanigans. Pierce's shot rimmed out, the Lakers added two more free throws and the Nets left with yet another notch in the loss column.
"The cup slipped out of my hand," Kidd said after the game, via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. "Sweaty palms...I was never good with the ball."
Adorable, isn't it? Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni certainly didn't think so.
"He can't do that," D'Antoni said later, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "I don’t think that’s very savvy or cool. I love Jason to death...But you don’t do that."
The NBA agreed with D'Antoni. The league hit Kidd with a $50,000 fine on Thursday, via ESPN.com.
How has this superteam already been reduced to resorting to illegal gimmicks? Because this is hardly Kidd's most egregious act as a coach.
2. Punch-Less Offense, Porous Defense
Less has been so much more for this Brooklyn offense.
That is to say the less Kidd is involved, the better things go for the Nets.
Before saying anything else, it's important to note that Brooklyn has been atrocious at both ends of the floor.
The Nets are currently sitting 22nd in offensive efficiency (99.3 points per 100 possessions). The opposite side of the court has been even worse. No defense has been more generous than Brooklyn's (107.2 points allowed per 100 trips).
The moderate offensive success this team has enjoyed comes when the team's playmakers have been freed to do their own thing. The Nets are the 10th-best team in executing isolations (0.85 points per possession via Synergy Sports, subscription required). On post plays, Brooklyn has enjoyed the seventh-most success (0.88).
But the more wrinkles Kidd has tried to install, the worse this offense has become. This is a below-average attack when it comes to pick-and-roll ball-handlers (0.75, 17th), pick-and-roll roll men (0.92, 22nd) and off-ball cutters (1.17, 18th).
It's the same story defensively. The Nets have been the second-best team in stopping isolations (0.67), but they rank dead last in stopping pick-and-roll penetrators (0.94) and spot-up shooters (1.08).
Obviously, letting the inmates run the asylum is not ideal. Players, even a group as experienced as this one, need direction. These numbers indicate both a lack of trust and communication breakdowns.
Kidd has to have a message for the players to follow. He doesn't have anything close to that right now.
3. Sluggish Starts, No Corrections
Crafting and executing a game plan isn't enough.
These strategies need to be fluid, molded at a moment's notice.
Part of Brooklyn's problem comes from the simple design. The Nets have opened every game by digging a hole. Per NBA.com (subscription required), this team has averaged a 10.5-point deficit by the end of the first period.
If Kidd wants evidence that the plan isn't working, that figure is hard to miss.
Yet, when he's had a chance to correct those problems, he's proven equally incapable of executing the task.
Halftimes aren't meant to be periods of rest. They're a coach's gift if utilized properly.
It's a time to reflect and assess the situation. Issues can be solved. Strengths can be exploited, weaknesses protected.
But somehow, Kidd has managed to make things even worse during his intermission talks. The Nets have been outscored by an average of 16.3 points in third quarters alone, per NBA.com.
Slow starts don't have to be game-killers. But it's hard for them to be anything else when they're combined with failed mid-game adjustments.
Then again, maybe these X's and O's blunders aren't all Kidd's fault. Not if you believe what scouts are saying about Brooklyn's first-year coach.
4. 'He Doesn't Do Anything'
Those were the words of a veteran NBA scout when assessing Kidd in an interview with B/R's Howard Beck.
"He doesn't make calls," the scout continued. "John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence [Frank] does all the defense...I don't know what Kidd does."
The scout added that he can't give Kidd anything more than an "incomplete" grade.
ESPN.com's David Thorpe was more cutting with his criticism. "He gets an F, he gets a zero," Thorpe said. "As he's currently doing, he's the worst coach in the NBA."
But injuries happen to every team. Failing to work around them is just that—a failure.
Not to mention, Kidd's done nothing with the healthy bodies available to him. Paul Pierce (36.8 field-goal percentage) and Kevin Garnett (36.1) look like they left their games in Boston. Joe Johnson is a volume scorer (15.0 points on 12.7 attempts) and nothing more.
The offense has no identity. The defense has been a disaster.
If Kidd isn't calling the shots, where is the input from all of those seasons spent seeing the game like a coach? How does he have no idea how to clean up this mess?
Could it be because he's not properly prepared for the job? It sure seems that way.
And it seems that message has found its way behind closed doors.
5. Locker Room Turmoil
Coaches say it all the time. Personality management is just as crucial to a successful existence as tactical understanding of the game.
Yet, herein lies another failing grade for Kidd.
After the Nets fell to 3-7 following a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 18—approximately three rock bottoms ago for anyone keeping score—they did not come running to Kidd for guidance.
Instead, the players sealed off the locker room and held a 25-minute players-only meeting. In the middle of November.
Not surprisingly, things have gotten even worse since.
Kidd benched his entire starting five for the start of the fourth quarter in a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 24. During the team's 19-point loss to the Houston Rockets on Nov. 29, Kidd sat four of his starters for the entire second half.
The coach claimed his reserves are playing "for one another," via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. You don't need to read that far between the lines to see what he was saying about his starters.
Those starters have not taken that message lying down. Pierce blasted his coach for the team's woeful third-quarter showings.
"Teams aren't going to play the same way they did in the first half as they did in the second half because teams make adjustments, especially when they are down,” Pierce said, via Bondy. “We got to realize that and adjust."
Realizing adjustments and making some of your own? Sounds like something a competent NBA coach would do, doesn't it?
But that's not what Kidd is at this point. And there's a $200-million dream collapsing because of that fact.