Rookie Coach Jason Kidd Used Veteran Gamesmanship to Get Nets to Game 7


TORONTO - Unless he gets called for a technical foul, Jason Kidd's name is no longer found in an NBA boxscore.

It's almost a full year since Kidd retired as a player and became the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, a move that raised eyebrows from Flatbush to Toronto.

Kidd, of course, had zero head coaching experience. He's had doubters all season, had them out in force after the Nets fell behind the Toronto Raptors, 3-2, in their best-of-seven series.

Doubt away.

The Nets forced a Game 7 Sunday (1 p.m., ABC) by overwhelming the Raptors, 97-83, Friday night in a raucous Barclays Center.

Unless you check for fingerprints, Kidd was nowhere to be found the final boxscore.

The line of the night belonged to point guard Deron Williams: 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and a blanket defensive job on his nemesis, Kyle Lowry.

But make no mistake about it: The Nets wouldn't be back in Toronto if not for Kidd's brilliant gamesmanship – and decision-making - since the 115-113 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday night.

Kidd activated a giant force field around his players on Thursday, when unsolicited, he called out the refs on a conference call with reporters, wondering how in the name of a Canadian dollar could the physical Joe Johnson have gone to the line just once in Game 5. Once?!

"When I first heard what he said, I thought, 'Why is he talking about that,''' said Johnson. "I don't complain about the refs. I don't flop. I just play and let that other stuff take care of itself.''

"Then I realized, he's got my back. He's got all of our backs. He has all season.''

Having his player's backs cost Kidd $25,000. The league fined him for his comments that Thursday. Talk about a great investment.

While Kidd put himself under the heat lamp with no lotion, the Nets were free to think about basketball, think about the Raptors.

Kidd was asked prior to Game 6 why he opted to make headlines, something he rarely did during the season.

With a perfect, 'Who me, face?' and an innocent voice, Kidd said, "What did I do? I never make any headlines. It wasn't me.''

The reporter persisted. "It sounded like you on the phone."

"Was it?,'' Kidd asked. "Oh, then it was me. No, it's an opinion. We all have one. Right or wrong. So we move on.''

The Nets moved on and up, dominating Game 6 from start to finish. They boarded the team charter Saturday afternoon loose as Canadian goose down pillow, as loose as the clean-shaven, jocular Kidd was before and after Game 6.

But Kidd did more than pop smoke, although Johnson, in what surely was coincidence (wink! Wink!) attempted nine free throws.

Kidd made two key personnel moves that were immediately rewarded.

He inserted aggressive swingman Alan Anderson into the starting lineup ahead of Shaun Livingston. Anderson responded with a career-high nine rebounds and nine points.

And Kidd used veteran Andray Blatche as his first center off the bench ahead of rookie Mason Plumlee, who has struggled with foul trouble. Blatche finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

"He's had our back all season, this is one time that everyone got to see it,'' said Anderson. "When we were struggling early, he put it all on him. When we lost some games late, he took the heat. That's why everyone in this locker room respects him.''

"People said he didn't have any coaching experience but he understands how the game is played, on and off the court. He was that way as a player and that's how he is as a coach. He takes responsibility. You want to play for a guy like that, a guy that has your back.''

Kidd was in his top postgame playoff interview form after the win.

When asked if Williams, who has gone head-to-head with Lowry in an epic point guard battle, redeemed himself after Lowry went off for 36 points in Game 5, Kidd, quipped, "It was probably because of what you guys wrote. That's why you read it in the bathroom.''

See, you can question Kidd all you want. Just don't questions his players.

"I believe in those guys,'' said Kidd. "I have since Day One.''

"I said it before the game, there's no pressure, it's just a challenge we enjoy as professional athletes, the challenge of trying to do something that people don't believe we can do.''

The Nets have never won a Game 7 (neither have the Raptors), a fact that was brought up soon after the final horn sounded in Barclays Center.

Kidd wasn't about the let his players face that burden, either.

"Well it's a first for everything for me,'' he said. "First playoffs, first Game 1, first Game 2 and we can go on and on. So it's first Game 7 is just like Game 1.''

If the Nets lose, Kidd will take the blame. If they win, he'll laud the players. That's been Kidd's style all season.

The buck, all $25,000, stops with him.