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With ball not in hand anymore, Kidd readies for next challenge

POSTED: Aug 7, 2013 11:23 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Jason Kidd hopes the addition of savvy veterans will help ease the transition from court to bench.

For 19 years and 1,391 games in his NBA career, Jason Kidd the point guard had the ball in his grasp.

Now he has a team in his hands and the situation couldn't be more different and more difficult.

When the clock runs down, the game gets late and the pressure ratchets up, the touch of the rookie coach of the Nets will end at the sidelines rather than the middle of the action.

Nets Hire Kidd as Coach

It is a transition from future Hall of Fame player to coach that is not usually comfortable or easy. Ask Magic Johnson. Or Isiah Thomas.

Yet it is a transition that has been completed successfully in the past by the likes of Tom Heinsohn, Billy Cunningham and Larry Bird. The first two won championships with the Celtics and the 76ers, respectively. Bird took the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once in his three seasons on Indiana's bench.

However, Kidd is making the jump directly from a player last season in New York to calling the shots in Brooklyn, yet says that he is prepared for the change.

"The player part of me is over, gone," Kidd said. "That was who I was for a long time and I probably could have tried to squeeze out another year or two. But I am really ready to make this move and feel like it can work.

"I watched all the coaches I had during my playing career. I saw the work and the hours that they put into the job. I understand the sacrifices they made. I know now that I'm ready to do those things that can make the players that I have successful, and in the end to make our team successful."

Kidd has made no secret that he's trying to model his baptism in the coaching world after Bird, who was both careful and wise to surround himself with sharp assistant coaches who could help carry the load as he learns the ropes.

Bird's staff had veteran NBA defensive specialist Dick Harter taking care that end of the floor and current Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was in charge of the offense.

Kidd has tabbed former Nets and Pistons coach Lawrence Frank to run the defense, while veteran NBA assistant John Welch will likely be in charge of the offense.

Jason Kidd Press Conference

"Lawrence is great," Kidd said. "He has the total package. He's been an assistant. He's been a head coach. You look at John, he's been around one of the best that's done it in George Karl... so he knows what it takes to be successful... I'm trying to share the vision I have."

Commenting at the Orlando Summer League, Bird said the hardest part about going from player to coach was motivating his team.

"I was always a self-motivator," he said. "I always motivated myself, but now you had to do it as a whole group and the one thing I did, I just managed the team. I tried to put out all the little fires in the locker room. I just tried to keep everybody as happy as you possibly can. You really can't do it all the time, but you have to manage the team.

"(Kidd) will have guys that look up to him and they'll want some direction and he's gonna give it to them. He's always been a coach on the floor, but sitting in that one seat is different.

"It's not as easy as it looks, to tell you the truth. I had even more respect for the coaches I had over the years. It's a tough gig. It's a lot of hours. It's tough. It's grinding. It was easier when you had the ball in your hands and he'll find that out.

"You see things develop as a coach out there and you say: 'How did he miss that guy wide open?' Or you always tell your guys: 'Push, keep pushing, set a better pick.' You do it as a coach, but it don't get through like it does from a teammate, like Magic or myself."

With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce added to a starting lineup that boasts Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets have 35 combined All-Star appearances among that group. Kidd and the Nets are hoping that group will have the institutional knowledge that comes from all that experience.

"These guys all understand what it takes to win," Kidd said. "They've all sacrificed. You have to sacrifice to be a winning team in this league. They all are unselfish. The guys we brought in have that work ethic and will share with their teammates."

GameTime: New Nets

Kidd says his team will welcome the pressure of being expected to win next season.

"I think when you look at championship-caliber teams, there is always high expectation and always a lot of attention," he said. "When the Heat were first put together, there was talk of going undefeated. They didn't get off to a great start but they found a way and won back-to-back championships. We're not the Miami Heat, but we feel we can compete at a high level. That said, there's gonna be a lot of eyes on us. Hopefully we can show ourselves how to play the game the right way."

"Obviously the talent is there," Pierce said. "I think you've got all the ingredients for a championship team. It's just how well we put the seasoning salt in and the pepper and all the little spices together, and how well it's going to come all out.

"We've got the ingredients. I think that's our job as veterans and the younger guys, to come together, understand the bigger picture and figure out how to make it work."

Part of the juggling act for Kidd will be to keep a lid on the competitive instincts of Garnett and Pierce, limiting their minutes during the regular season to keep them healthy and ready for the playoffs.

"What we're talking about is that everybody is sacrificing, and they understand that's what it's all about if you want to win," Kidd said. "If you sacrifice and do the things that it takes, you have a good chance. We have a very talented team."

But it will be the rookie coach who will have it all -- instead of just the ball -- in his hands who'll probably get the most scrutiny.

"I'm ready," Kidd said.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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