Jason Kidd Facing Unparalleled Pressure with Milwaukee Bucks

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 1, 2014

MIAMI, FL - MAY 14:  Jason Kidd of the Brooklyn Nets look on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 14, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jason Kidd's attempted power play managed to sever his ties with the Brooklyn Nets, but it netted him no additional influence.

He's now off to coach the Milwaukee Bucks, the team announced Tuesday, holding the same size stick he had in Brooklyn. The dual coach-front office he wanted isn't comingnot yet, at least—just the same position he held for the first time in his life last season.

Only, the job isn't the same. The resources, the expectations, the demands and the challenges are all different from what he's experienced.

There is no ready-made contender at his disposal. The team he inherits won 15 games in 2013-14 (29 fewer than Kidd's former club) and enters this offseason short on potential paths to roster upgrades:

The Bucks have youth, the one thing Kidd didn't have in Brooklyn, but youth takes time, patience, loyalty and luck to translate to the standings.

Buying time shouldn't be an issue in Milwaukee. The Bucks, perhaps begrudgingly, seem relatively committed to a long-term rebuild. The upside is there for something special down the line, but that line could be running for a while.

It's hard to say how much patience Coach Kidd has. The Nets exercised plenty of it during his debut season. They stood by his side through a two-game suspension for pleading guilty to DWI, the gaffe that was "Soda-Gate," the team's 10-21 start to the 2013-14 campaign and the reportedly fractured locker room he oversaw.

Kidd recovered in time to help the Nets make a conference semifinals appearance, but the roster looked strong enough on paper to get at least that far. Still, that performance was convincing enough for Kidd to feel he deserved the type of basketball control only afforded to the profession's biggest names: Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Stan Van Gundy.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - December 31: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Jason Kidd of the Brooklyn Nets converse before a game at the AT&T Center on December 31, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

Maybe that could have come with time for Kidd, but he tried circumventing the waiting period. In doing so, he left behind a market that could have eased his ascent up the coaching ranks:

The Nets had no reason to buy Kidd's front-office potential. Not when the jury is still out on his coaching skills.

So, Brooklyn shot down his request, which he apparently deemed a breaking point. Never mind that the franchise had already stuck its neck out for him, hiring him as coach just 10 days after he retired from his playing career. The Nets' refusal to take a massive gamble on him for the second straight summer was simply too much.

Kidd started plotting his escape, despite having three years left on his contract with the Nets. Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, once a financial advisor to Kidd, started working to bring him on board. Lasry, apparently, had no problem with the fact that his team's coaching position was already filled. In fact, the owners were so confident in what they were doing, they didn't bother talking it over with the front office, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger:

NBA.com's Steve Aschburner detailed how the pursuit went down:

Lasry, who bought the Bucks this spring with hedge-fund partner Wesley Edens, already has apologized to Larry Drew, NBA sources confirmed, for the public undercutting that played out over about 48 hours. Actually the process took a little longer: Drew was in the Bucks’ war room on Draft night Thursday in suburban Milwaukee while Lasry and Edens were at the event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Drew was at No. 2 pick Jabari Parker's introductory news conference Friday while the owners clandestinely interviewed Kidd in New York. The ham-handed maneuver leaked out Saturday and finally, on Monday, the Bucks and the Nets agreed on compensation in the form of two future second-round draft picks.

Even if history proves Milwaukee made the right move, it will never sign off on its execution.

Kidd violated a cardinal rule in the coaching world: chasing a job that was already filled.

The Bucks botched the deal from all angles, not the least of which was the raw deal they gave now-former coach Larry Drew:

"It's hard to say who looks worse in this sordid sagaKidd, for his callousness and his blind ambition, or the Bucks' new owners, for foolishly tying their team's fate to a still-unproven coach known more for burning bridges than building foundations," Bleacher Report's Howard Beck wrote.

Loyalty in professional sports is an ideal often pushed by fans and the media, but a lot of the wide-eyed players in this locker room may not realize that it's nothing more than a myth. Jabari Parker, taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, was minutes removed from having his name called when he told reporters (via Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk), "I'm trying to be a throwback player, only stick with one team."

BROOKLYN - JUNE 26: Jabari Parker the #2 overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks speaks with the media during the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
Steve Freeman/Getty Images

A lot of these players haven't been hardened by the business side of the profession yet. They might subscribe to the theory that loyalty exists, even when their new coach's track record suggested otherwise long before his latest move:

It's a lesson they'll learn soon, though, if they haven't already. Some analysts have already wondered how firm Kidd's feet are planted in Milwaukee.

"Because Kidd had torched his own Brooklyn bridge, it makes you wonder if he's merely taking the Bucks' coaching job as a matter of convenience," Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote.

All of this increases the pressure for Kidd to perform. Only wins can justify his hiring, and those don't figure to come with regularity anytime soon for this franchise.

Kidd will take over a team that finished in the bottom five in both offensive (100.2, 26th) and defensive (108.9, 29th) efficiency, via NBA.com.  The roster has promise in players like Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Knight, John Henson and Larry Sanders—all of whom are 25 or younger—but someone needs to tap into that potential.

"The Bucks job is not about recruiting stars, it's about building them," NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote. "It's on Kidd to do that now."

He didn't have to do anything like that in Brooklyn. His entire rotation there included one player under the age of 25: reserve big Mason Plumlee, who saw 18.2 minutes a night.

Player development was an afterthought at Kidd's last stop, if it ever even crossed his mind. That's the sole focus for the start of his tenure in Milwaukee, with a rather small ceiling for realistic, short-term growth.

It's going to take some time, and probably more help on draft night, to get this franchise turned around. That won't decrease the amount of pressure Kidd is facing, though.

He has to move these prospects along, as the Bucks simply cannot attract top-tier free agents. Milwaukee's only available road to relevance involves several of its blue-chip players panning out, a process that could determine the fate of Kidd's coaching career.

He'll have to coach these players up because external assistance will be hard to come by in his new home. The hand he currently holds is the one he'll likely be playing over the next few seasons. It's his job to maximize the value of that hand.

Should he fail to deliver, it's hard to imagine another front office giving him a shot. Not after the way he treated the one that gave him his first.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of NBA.com.


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