From Brooklyn to the Bucks, Jason Kidd Reveals He Has No Regrets over Move

Ric Bucher@@RicBucherNBA Senior WriterDecember 19, 2014

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Jason Kidd's first year as a head coach, with the Brooklyn Nets, made a lot of headlines, most of them far different than the ones he inspired as one of the league's all-time premier point guards over 19 seasons. The Nets assembled both the oldest and highest-priced roster in the league with the hope of becoming instant champions. Thanks to injuries and unfamiliarity, the team stumbled out of the gate before righting itself to finish 44-38 and reach the second round of the playoffs.

Exactly what happened next and who inspired it remains a point of contention, but by July Kidd had been allowed out of the remaining three years of his contract and the Milwaukee Bucks traded two second-round picks to the Nets for the right to hire him.

The fit with the Bucks appears to be as good as the one with the Nets was not. The Bucks, far and away the worst team in the league last season, arrived in Sacramento Thursday night with the Eastern Conference's sixth-best record and only two wins short of last season's total. They will have to play the rest of the season without their No. 1 pick Jabari Parker, however, after he tore a ligament in his left knee Monday night in Phoenix.

Bleacher Report caught up with Kidd before the game against the Kings to find out how he will adjust to Parker's absence, his perspective on being an NBA coach, what happened in Brooklyn and the reason for Milwaukee's surprising start.

B/R: Where will you miss Jabari Parker the most?

Jason Kidd:  His scoring, playmaking ability. Being young and not knowing the NBA game, we'll miss the chance to teach it to him, too. Great kid. We do have some special guys, but those special guys make their teammates feel like they're a big part of the wins. We never just played isos [isolation plays] through Jabari—"Hey, Jabari, just shoot all the balls." He has other skills. I thought he was doing everything we asked him to do and playing at a very high level. He was doing well with the challenge of finally making some good stuff happen for Milwaukee.

B/R: What part of being an NBA head coach has surprised you the most?

Don Ryan/Associated Press

JK: The quickness of the turnarounds. As a player, you never realized how fast the games turn. Win, you feel great; lose, you're like, "Should I have shot more, should I have done something else?" Coaching is like, "Well, we didn't rebound the ball well tonight, we have to rebound the ball tomorrow night and I have to get someone going offensively." As a player, you think about, "I would've done this a little different." Coaching, you're thinking big picture. That's the biggest difference.

B/R: As a point guard who played the way you did, you already seemed to think that way more than most players did.

JK: But now you're doing it without a ball. You're doing it thinking for your players, the opponent's players and what the opposing coach is trying to get them to do. There are a lot of different things going on.

B/R: Do you like the mental challenge of figuring out that puzzle?

JK: Oh, it's great. Every player should have the chance to coach at some point in their career. Just to understand how hard it is. Mentally and physically. The chess game that's being played, trying to get guys to play hard, that's the first thing we thought we could help this team with and they've done it every time they've taken the floor. But it's not easy.    

B/R: What's the one thing you would give to your players that you had as a player?

JK: Just to talk to each other. Both offensively and defensively. And use the ball as a way of talking, too. You don't like to talk, use the ball, leading a teammate to a position to shoot or using it to tell him to keep going for a drive or layup.

B/R: Kevin Garnett said to you after you beat him and your old team, the Brooklyn Nets, that he saw you teaching the Bucks what you were able to get the Nets to do midway through last season. What did he mean by that?

From injuries to new roles, the Nets struggled to find a rhythm last season under Jason Kidd until the calendar turned to January.
From injuries to new roles, the Nets struggled to find a rhythm last season under Jason Kidd until the calendar turned to January.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

JK: Understanding the team aspect, trying to get away from a one-man show, or worrying about whose team it is and just working on the mental aspect of the game, being mentally tough. If we weren't mentally tough at 10-21 last year, we would've never made it to where we got to.

B/R: Why did it take 31 games to learn that?

JK: You have a collection of new players, new coaching staff. Respect level was at an all-time high as far as no one wanting to step on anyone's toes, so that was a feeling-out period. Most of the time, you put new pieces together, it takes 25-30 games to get adjusted. We had so many things going on. Just think about Paul [Pierce being in Boston and] never having been on another team before. Joe [Johnson] and Brook [Lopez] getting hurt. Everyone was just feeling their way through.

B/R: There were people who questioned your ability to coach at the beginning. Did you ever question your ability to coach?

JK: No. I never thought, "This is not for me." I thought I was doing the right thing the whole time.

B/R: What did you think about that criticism?

JK: It was no different than me being a player. They've always questioned me. I'm the lightning rod for being questioned. I was trying to tape that thing together with duct tape. I was trying to stay positive. Coming in every day wondering if we could practice because we had injuries and an older team. We all learned from each other. We learned we weren't going to quit. When it turned, it turned. It's almost like anything I've been involved in—it's always bad and at some point it turns good.

B/R: Did you know you were going to start with that lesson when you arrived in Milwaukee?

JK: I've seen it as a player in the NBA and in other franchises in other sports. The good ones have a system, a culture, of what they stand for, all the way from the owners down to the ball kids. It's not a one-year flash in the pan. It's "This is who we are."

Dec 17, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives to the basket on Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) and guard Wesley Matthews (2) during the first quarter of the game at the Moda Center at the Rose Q

B/R: Is it easier coaching a younger group, not having to worry if they can practice or how much you can play them?

JK: There are all different factors. Older team, you can practice shorter, your vocabulary they understand. You can talk about it on the fly and make an adjustment. Younger team you have to go through it, go through it again, show 'em on film, practice it. You have to make it into a habit. Older teams have habits, it's just a matter of putting the players in place.

B/R: What would you do different about your exit from Brooklyn?

JK: Nothing.

B/R: If they had given you what you were looking for, would you still be there?

JK: I didn't ask for anything. I asked them to improve the franchise.

B/R: What's the biggest misconception about how you left?

JK: The power struggle. There was no power struggle. There's still no power struggle.

B/R: What prompted you to leave or ask out?

JK: They wanted to fire me, they didn't think I was doing a good job, and when I say "they" I mean management. Then it all changed when things started going well. Also I think the biggest thing, and we don't talk about it anymore, but Brooklyn gave Milwaukee permission to talk to me. That's where it all starts and ends. It's as simple as it gets. Everybody can run with their conspiracy theories or power struggles. But at the end of the day, Milwaukee asked Brooklyn for permission and they granted it.

B/R: At what point was Brooklyn talking about firing you?

JK: Early December.

The Nets' discussions about Kidd's job status in the middle of last season prompted Kidd to consider leaving the team after one season on the bench in Brooklyn.
The Nets' discussions about Kidd's job status in the middle of last season prompted Kidd to consider leaving the team after one season on the bench in Brooklyn.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

B/R: So things got better, but you hadn't forgotten that?

JK: Oh yeah. I don't forget anything. But that never stopped me from doing my job.

B/R: What's the best part about being a head coach?

JK: Seeing the guys get better. Older, younger, teaching them something they didn't know and seeing it stick, seeing them carry it and use it in their games. The challenge in Milwaukee is kind of fun, too. We're building from the ground up, the team, the arena and the practice site. Whole lot of new stuff happening for Milwaukee.

B/R: What have you taught this team that surprised you they had to learn?

JK: I like passing the ball, so making a play for one of your teammates. One of my biggest pet peeves is having a fast break, you're by yourself, your teammate is coming up behind you. Don't take the layup. Throw it back to him, let him get the two points. Show him you're unselfish and it goes a long way. We've seen that already with our team. That's real simple but it shows character. It's thinking, "It's not just about me scoring. That'll probably come back to me at some point in the game in a good way."

B/R: Of all the coaches you played for, whose voice do you hear in your head the most when you're in a tough situation or grabbing the clipboard during a timeout?

JK: [Rick] Carlisle. Carlisle's the best. I've always felt his demeanor—he never showed he felt any pressure, he was always giving confidence to us when he came into the timeout. Even if he didn't have to draw anything up, he'd say, "We're going to get the stop and then this is what we're going to do offensively." It was just his confidence and never panicking. He'd make us see what we needed to do and then we'd go out and execute it.

B/R: Which one of your coaches do you see differently now as a result of being a coach?

JK: [Scott] Skiles and [Danny] Ainge. I see them differently. Ainge was just so positive and he always played to the team's strengths. As much as guys maybe complained about someone dribbling too much, he'd always say, "Hey, look, he gets 15 and 10." As a young player I didn't always understand that at that time. We played small ball. As much as I wanted to have the ball in my hands, you have to let the other talented players touch it, too.

Skiles, it wasn't so much demand, but his rule in Phoenix—if you didn't front, the horn would come and there'd be a sub coming in for you. Holding guys accountable. I see the value in that now, I didn't see it then.

Ric Bucher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.


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