Jason Kidd Notes
When he strides to the green court next fall, Jason Kidd will stride toward a few hundred Bucks wins.
That is the hope. That is the journey. That would place him in the company of the select group of four head coaches in franchise history who are remembered and remembered for good reasons.
Exactly four head coaches in franchise history have won more games than they have lost: Don Nelson, Larry Costello, Del Harris, and George Karl. In terms of winning percentage, in that order. Four out of 14 coaches all time. That is a small group, but keep in mind that the Bucks as a franchise have a winning record overall. These are the coaches responsible for that.
Not that the wins are going to arrive in bulk in the first year. This is a long term play. If it works. And there are reasons to feel this could work.
In his first season as a head coach in the NBA, Kidd got off to a rough start. The moderately-hyped and heavily-veteran Nets started the season 10-21, and then lost arguably their best player (Brook Lopez) at the tail of that stretch. After that? Brooklyn won twice as many games as they lost, going 34-17. In that span, Kidd won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors twice (January and March).
Last season, the Bucks were the second youngest team in the NBA by many measures. Unlike all the rest of us, the Bucks might be getting even younger, after drafting a couple of 19 year-olds with their first two picks last week. Meanwhile, the 41 year-old Kidd is one of the very youngest head coaches (Brad Stevens 37, Jacque Vaughn 39, Frank Vogel 41). Then again, the Nets were one of the oldest teams in the league last year, with players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry among those who were accustomed to playing with Kidd.
Not everyone on the Nets had been around the NBA block so often though, and Kidd seemed to do well connecting with some of the more inexperienced players. Take Mirza Teletovic for example, the 28 year-old second-year forward from Serbia, who called Kidd the “new Gregg Popovich”. Let us take that one slowly, but no matter, this is the encouraging type of anecdote.
Kidd will become the fourth straight Bucks head coach who was an NBA-drafted point guard, following Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan, and Larry Drew. (Boylan was drafted and played professionally in Europe but never a game in the NBA.)
There is a Zach Lowe article from back in February that is worth reading in full. It covers nicely the transformation that Brooklyn underwent, via Kidd’s vision, following the early-season injury to Brook Lopez. Some of the fun: The team experimented with lineups (Pierce ranged from shooting guard to power forward), restructured to a more aggressive defensive scheme (big men instructed to step out further on pick-and-rolls) that led to increased efficiency, and found a new identity (including taking more threes) on the fly as one of the league’s better post-December teams.
And now for a brief playing career resumé interlude: Rookie of the Year, 10-time All-Star, four-time All-Defensive First Team, one-time champion (two-time runner-up), five times in the top 10 in MVP voting, five-time league assists per game leader, and second all-time in career assists and steals. (Also: Two-time NBA Sportsmanship Award winner.)
One more playing career note. Kidd ranks third on the all-time NBA list for three-pointers made, which is particularly significant because he entered the league as a rather poor long-range shooter (27.2 % as a rookie) before reinventing himself later in his career (above 38.0 % three straight seasons from age 34-36). In his first season as a coach, his Nets shot and made threes more frequently as the season progressed. Threes are massively important in today’s NBA, the Bucks struggled to take or make shots from long range last season after looking good on paper in that respect before the season, and this could be a nice point of emphasis for young players who could really, really use a three-point shot like Antetokounmpo and Wolters.