The Brooklyn Nets have a roster built for yesterday, an owner obsessed on today and a coach who may or may not be good tomorrow.
Something has got to give. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of professional sports, that means someone has got to go.
Coach Jason Kidd might not be the cause of all of Brooklyn's problems, but it's getting harder to imagine him as the solution. The Nets can't recover their already mortgaged future; they have to salvage what they can of the present.
Part of that process involves moving on from Kidd. Maybe not now, but certainly sooner than later. By all accounts, the coach has lost control of his players. Brooklyn doesn't have the time to wait and see if Kidd can ever find it again.
Locker Room Turmoil
It was only a matter of time.
With championship expectations and lottery results (10-20 record, minus-4.1 points per 100 possessions, 24th overall), this was bound to get ugly. Uglier than a five-figure spilled soda or assistant coach Lawrence Frank's awkward demotion, even.
A blame game befitting the league's most expensive broken dream has begun.
Despite his best efforts, Kidd now finds himself at the heart of these critiques, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
The Nets had tried to be supportive of Kidd, but patience is running low on the belief he can deliver the structure and organization desperately needed. As the Nets have devolved into chaos, Kidd has increasingly isolated himself within the locker room and organization, sources told Yahoo Sports. From management to players, Kidd has shown an inability to manage crisis and keep the respect of his players.
There are so many factors feeding into this problem, many of which Kidd had nothing to do with.
He should have never been tabbed to coach this team. It wasn't just the fact that he had zero coaching experience on his resume. In the right situation, that wouldn't have been a detriment at all.
But this was the worst-case scenario setting to start a coaching career. Most teams do what they can to avoid championship-or-bust labels. The Nets built an entire roster through that one-year lens, taking on restrictive future financial commitments and sacrificing as many draft picks as it took to piece together an on-paper contender.
Kidd, just weeks removed from his playing career when he got the job, was suddenly put in charge of people he'd considered peers for the last decade-plus. If those peers-turned-employees needed a moment to embrace the transition, he could win them over with an insatiable work ethic and the desire to improve.
Let's just say he hasn't barked up that tree yet:
Also keep hearing that a big stickler for the Nets vets with Kidd is that he doesn't wotk hard. Like a Steve Spurrier/Redskins situation.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 27, 2013
If Kidd wanted to be treated like a coach, he needed to look like one, act like one. At the very least, just sound like one.
But he's had trouble finding passing grades on the simple eyes and ears tests:
Not sure how much game tape Jason Kidd has watched on the Pacers: “… They’re going to try to knock you out in the first five minutes."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 28, 2013
One scout told B/R's own Howard Beck that Kidd added nothing to the Nets earlier this season:
He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence [Frank] does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.
That criticism came in the middle of November. Fast-forward more than a month later, and nothing seems to have changed:
Jason Kidd seems like the most passive coach in the NBA. No emotion on the sideline and doesn't say much in the huddles.— Mark Montieth (@MarkMontieth) December 29, 2013
Kidd looks like a man with no answers.
No sparks for the team's stagnant offense (102.1 points per 100 possessions, tied for 17th). No plugs for the uncontrollable defensive leaks (106.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, 27th). No contingency plan for the rash of injuries that, while unpredictable, figured to make appearances at some point given the collective age of this roster.
Whether Kidd actually belongs in this coaching chair doesn't matter. That's where he's sitting now.
But just how will he keep ruling Brooklyn's roost without any results to warrant his position? Just how hot is that blaze burning under the first-year coach's seat?
Ending in Sight?
There's only so long to keep fleeting hope alive. No matter how bad the Atlantic Division is, winning it means nothing other than serving as a sacrificial lamb for the few elites that call the Eastern Conference home.
The division crown is fool's gold. The reward is so much smaller than it seems, and there's still a great possibility that this "celebration" never comes to fruition. Brooklyn is sitting just 4.0 games back in the division race, but that gap feels a bit wider after each head-scratching loss.
At some point, there's going to be a rude awakening in Brooklyn. The fact that Mikhail Prokhorov's championship plan has failed will be realized by someone. That's when heads will start rolling, although Kidd may not be the first to go:
PS: Nets will fire Billy King before they fire Kidd. He's the one who hired Kidd and made all these trades. Kidd will be no. 2 fall guy.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 27, 2013
But what will keep Kidd from reaching the same fate as the executive that hired him?
He obviously isn't ready to lead a championship-or-failure team, but where's the evidence that he'd fare any better with a developing ground?
He's already blasted this group and attacked its effort—sure-fire ways for a rookie coach to lose a veteran-laden locker room—despite reportedly not showing any of drive of his own. If he can't figure out how to use players who understand their own strengths and weaknesses, how will he ever handle players in the early stages of their careers?
Things are only going to get worse before they get better (assuming they do, in fact, improve at some point).
According to TeamRankings.com, the Nets have played the league's fifth-easiest schedule so far. Brooklyn just started the second of the six three-plus-game road trips it will take this season, which later includes a seven-game swing with stops in Chicago, Denver, Oakland and Portland. The Nets have three more meetings with the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks, and two each with the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.
This team needs to keep Band-Aids on hand because the schedule won't stop any bleeding on its own. And Kidd would be wise to keep his bags packed.
The Nets are going to wait as long as they can to give him his walking papers. Whenever that day comes, it's an all-out admission of a glaring mistake in their coaching search. Assuming the Nets ever felt they had championship potential—clearly, they did, or this roster would have never been built—firing Kidd will be the day Brooklyn admits that coaching gamble may have cost it a shot at the title.
So, when will that admission come?
Not likely before the All-Star break, with Brooklyn seemingly having at least that Atlantic Division title distraction to hold over a restless fanbase.
But that could be near the take-off point for the chatter to really start surrounding Kidd and Nets general manager Billy King. If Brooklyn goes in fire-sale mode before the trade deadline on Feb. 20, both coach and executive could be lost in that process.
Assuming the Nets hold on to their pieces, Kidd's dismissal could be tied to that of his team. Whether that's an early mathematical elimination or a first-round playoff exit, Kidd could follow his team out the door.
Should the Nets move on from Jason Kidd?
The only way to save his job is to do something he hasn't been able to all season—inspire some hope for this franchise.
There is no championship ending coming. But Kidd needs to give the Brooklyn brass some reason to keep him around.
That means being the first one in and last one out every day. It's rallying the troops rather than abandoning them when things get tough. It's forming the basis of any kind of offensive or defensive systems that the Nets can feel confident about moving forward.
It's behaving like an NBA coach, something Kidd doesn't know about nor seem that interested in learning. Brooklyn should have seen the warning signs before, but it can't remedy that mistake by staying with this sinking ship any longer than it needs to.
Yesterday's mistakes need today's actions to leave any hope for tomorrow's solutions. That might not be the way the Nets do business, but it's a model they'll have to adopt if they have any hopes of moving forward.